History would tell us that behind every great man is a great woman. While there is some truth to that, I believe that behind every great person there is an even better partner. More importantly, an accountability partner. Taking a 30,000-foot view of my life, I have had many people who have felt responsible for holding me accountable. That includes everyone from my parents, life partners, family, friends, business partners, squad leaders, and platoon commanders. As leaders and peers, that’s their responsibility.  All of them have done their best in that role, and I thank them for that. Having an accountability partner is arguably one of the most valuable and cherished assets in life and business.

As life changes and we grow and evolve into the next version of ourselves, we need our accountability partners to do just as their role says. Hold us accountable. I haven’t always respected them in this position they were blessing me with, and that was a mistake. Having the foresight to understand what they’re trying to do for us is something that is not easily seen – at least for me. More often than not, I have pushed back, rebelled, and boldly stated my position. Beating my chest to seem like I knew what I was talking about. After all, only I can honestly know my place, right? What a load of b.s. In hindsight, that gravitas was just an excuse for not holding up my end of the agreement. Wisdom is not a gift I have been blessed with in my life. I tend only to be able to learn hard life lessons from experience, and my experience, I mean stumbling over myself until I don’t have a leg to stand on. Has that made me a better leader? Maybe. Has that initiated change and growth? Indeed.

I mentioned earlier in this post that I have had several accountability partners over the years, but there is one particular individual who has gone above and beyond for me. Before I get into who they are, I want to share how and why. It is quite simple, love, and faith in me to succeed in everything that I am doing.

This is where it gets exciting and what I believe to be the real lesson for me of this post. I have been fortunate enough to have a woman in my life that curated a change so significant that I completely altered the entire course of my life during one of the most impactful, important and trying times anyone could ever go through.  No one will ever really know you like your life partner. That may be your college roommate, girlfriend or boyfriend. Your husband or wife, but ultimately their role is your closest confidant and your best friend – your challenger, and the person that calls your bluff and after that lifts you up. Every leader needs this person. The person with whom they’re willing to share every little secret. It gives them the ability to question you and ask why openly. Which, in turn, puts you in a position to think outside of the box. Apart from specific roles in the government, we all go home and share our dreams, goals, hardships, and visions with our partner. For me, that person is my partner in life, Megan. I am so blessed to have her by my side, walking through the mud and muck with me. As a fellow leader in my industry, her knowledge and experience are valuable, but as my best friend and someone who genuinely cares about my success and growth as a leader, she pushes me further. I can say without hesitation that I wouldn’t be writing this right now, or have the amount of passion for what I am doing without her.

That’s the funny thing about partnership, accountability, and leadership. You can’t have one without the other. Whether you’re a single business owner operating entirely on your own, an employee in a leadership role, or the leader of the free world – without those two assets your capability as a leader isn’t built on a solid foundation. As leaders, we need to choose our circle of trust wisely. We must surround ourselves with those who have the same values and integrity. If we don’t, who is going to correct our path when we’re off track? Look at your circle, evaluate and reevaluate who you get close to and when you find the ones that want to share in your personal growth and have proven themselves to do just that – show them why they made the right decision by trusting them to do so. Not everyone is called to lead, but if you’re reading this and serving in a leadership role, nourish those relationships and provide as much value to them as they do to you. In turn, you’ll learn to give that equivalent to those you lead.