Why Leadership is the Loneliest Role – and What You Can Do About It
There is a significant difference between being a line manager and being the CEO, and the old adage rings trues: “It’s lonely at the top.” The loneliness itself results from the isolation of the position.
This isolation may have a variety of root causes:
- The leader may have risen through the ranks and is now in a position of supervising people who used to be peers.
- The leader cannot share information with their direct reports because many of the decisions directly affect these people.
- The Board of Directors looks to the leader for a recommendation or decision and is not always the best resource for the leader to debate ideas.
Leaders: Are You Feeling Lonely?
So As A Leader, What Can Be Done?
An external coach is needed, as he or she becomes the leader’s sounding board. In an objective way, the coach can dialogue about the challenges the leader is facing and give advice on how to approach those challenges. It is helpful for the coach to have had some senior leadership experience, to truly understand “both sides of the desk”.
Leaders must balance the short- and long-term needs of the organization. There is often a tension between short-term needs and the future vision for the organization. In fact, acting in the short-term may be in direct conflict with a long-term goal. For example, shuffling middle managers to ameliorate staffing issues in the short term may have to be undone if there is a long-term organizational change in the planning.
Consider a request to hire capability in a specific department within the organization, when the leader is looking at acquiring a new business or closing areas of the organization that cannot be discussed in the present. There is little point in talking with the transportation division about changes in shipping or acquiring a new fleet of trucks when the leader is contemplating outsourcing the whole shipping division to an outside source such as UPS
Stop Going It Alone!
Personnel issues are where a leader can feel most isolated. If the leader has concerns about the capability of members of their executive team, it would be unethical and a breach of trust to discuss this with anyone within the organization. This is where coaching at the leadership level can be most helpful and stress reducing. The coach/consultant can work with the leader to complete some strategic assessment of personnel before personnel changes are ever put in place.