When we are too close to an issue, we can’t see the forest for the trees. Leaders who normally know exactly what to do about an issue can be blinded when the problem involves them or people they care deeply about.
The wise leader seeks to increase distance and gain perspective at such times, often using others as a sounding board to test their objectivity. Distance, after all, allows for viewing people and issues from more angles and altitudes.
Less obvious is the fact that getting farther away from people and issues has equal challenges. When leaders remove themselves from the day-to-day or give up meaningful contact with customers or clients, they lose touch with the hard realities important to make quality decisions.
Detachment from experiencing an issue or entity firsthand or depending on old data often produces a false image that can be precarious when acted upon. Not surprisingly, a leader disconnected from realities on the field of play can create an image that doesn’t match reality. When they push this reality in comments, choices, and decisions, those who understand the reality on the ground don’t know what to do. Explaining to the leader that they don’t “get it” is never a safe conversation for team members to have.
Spending a meaningful portion of their time with clients or customers and on the front lines is what good leaders do to give themselves perspective. They don’t depend on what they used to know or on trusted others to replace this direct contact.
The danger of too much distance carries with it significant consequences. The best leaders stay in touch with the realities others experience as a way of galvanizing their own.
Personally, I don't think having the relationship is enough. I have a great relationship with my 'bosses'. They understand at a very high level what I do and what my team does. However, when it comes time to make decisions that will effect the operations of my team, they pull me into the conversation because they know they're missing information. I think this is rare though. Most often, I see leaders 'think they know' and make uninformed decisions that their people then have to live with or clean up afterward. IMHO Admired Leaders 'bring along' their people who are in the best position to make the decision and push the decision making down to the lowest level necessary to make the most informed decision.
I think it is important for leaders to continue to have some 'skin in the game' when it comes to the teams they lead. Not that they can do everything their teams do, but if there was an emergency, they can keep the lights on (thinking of resetting the security systems in Jurassic Park when Newman the IT Admin bails).