There’s something I’ve noticed a lot – even more so since Covid. Leaders often feel isolated as they rise up through the leadership ranks. It’s a common experience, but one that’s not always discussed openly.
Let’s dive in
According to a study conducted by Harvard Business Review, more than half of CEOs report feeling lonely in their roles, and more than 60% of senior leaders feel that their leadership skills are not well-supported by their organization. These feelings of isolation and lack of support can lead to stress, burnout, and ultimately, a decline in leadership performance.
One reason for this isolation is the power dynamic that comes with leadership. Leaders are often seen as the final decision-makers in their organizations, which can create a sense of distance between them and their employees. Additionally, leaders may feel pressure to present a strong and unflappable persona to their team, which can further contribute to feelings of loneliness and isolation.
And then there’s the lack of support from their peers. While leaders may have strong relationships with their subordinates, they may not have many opportunities to connect with others who are in similar positions. This can make it difficult for leaders to share their experiences and get advice from others who understand their unique challenges.
What can we do?
Therefore, what can leaders do to combat this sense of isolation? One solution is to build a network of peers who can offer support and guidance. This can be done through peer advisory/peer coaching groups, industry events, professional organizations, or even informal gatherings with other leaders. By connecting with others who are going through similar experiences, leaders can gain new perspectives and feel less alone in their roles.
Also, it’s important for leaders to prioritize self-care and make time for activities that bring them joy. Whether it’s spending time with family and friends, pursuing hobbies, or taking vacations, leaders need to make sure they are taking care of themselves both physically and mentally. In all honesty, the leaders I work with do this, yet the feeling of isolation persists all the while enjoying themselves. With that being said, it is key to seek out and practice a multitude of solutions that I have outlined here.
The reality is, in coaching for over 3,500 hours, I’ve never met a single leader who didn’t want to stay at the top of their game. But often with isolation comes self-doubt.
It’s important to remember that feeling isolated as a leader doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing a bad job. In fact, it can be a sign that you’re taking your role seriously and are willing to make tough decisions that others may not agree with. So, while it may feel lonely at the top, remember that you’re not alone in feeling that way.
One way to combat isolation is to find a mentor who can offer guidance and support. Think of it as having a wise Yoda to your Luke Skywalker, or a Dumbledore to your Harry Potter.
Additionally, being vulnerable with your team helps alleviate the pressure associated with isolation. It can be scary to show weakness or admit that you don’t have all the answers, but it can also help to build trust and respect with them. After all, everyone loves a leader who’s willing to show their human side. However, just make sure you don’t overshare – your team doesn’t need to know about your obsession with cat memes or your failed attempts at baking sourdough bread.
And finally, remember to take breaks and have a little fun. You don’t have to be serious all the time and taking a few minutes to joke around with your team or indulge in a guilty pleasure can actually help boost productivity and creativity. So go ahead and indulge in that midday dance party or office karaoke session – just maybe skip the interpretive dance routine to “Eye of the Tiger” in front of the board of directors.
Know that you’re not alone
Feeling isolated as a leader is a common experience, but it’s not one that has to bring you down. By finding a mentor, being vulnerable with your team, and having a little fun, you can break out of your lonely bubble and become a better leader. And who knows, maybe you’ll even get a few laughs along the way.
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