Page 36

LE_April2014_Final

The Lonely Leader “It’s lonely at the top. But does it have to be?” By Alisa Robinson and Diane Marentette For many higher level executives there is truth to the idiom “It’s lonely at the top.” We’ve heard it for years and many leaders have smiled knowingly at the phrase. But what if loneliness affects everyone in a leadership position? And what if the impact of loneliness is poor relationships, poor decisions and poor business results? Although, this isolation may not be immediately recognized, its affects can be profound- both personally and within the corporation. So, how do you know if you are one of the lonely leaders out there and what can you do about it? Fortunately, we have tools and strategies to overcome corporate isolation, leading to more fulfilling work life and a more productive and functional workplace. Why Are Leaders So Lonely? Loneliness is essentially the result of not having company or companionship. The feeling of loneliness is a feeling of isolation. When we feel lonely, we think that no one really understands or connects to our worries or experiences. We have a fundamental feeling that we are on our own in dealing with life - or in this case, business. In fact, don’t we expect that leaders should be capable of running their piece of the business on their own? The idea of loneliness is unconsciously reinforced on a daily basis. Loneliness in leaders can occur for many reasons. One common reason is physical or geographical isolation. Often when an executive is separated from much of his or her team, they end up feeling isolated. It is not unusual, for example, that regional offices exist throughout the country, with one leader in charge of each location. If a leader runs “the Northeast region” of an organization with a corporate office in Dallas, think of the isolation element. It is likely that everyone at an equivalent level or higher is located in another region or Dallas. It is also very possible that many people working for this regional leader are located in other cities. This leader is isolated in many ways. Loneliness also often occurs when individuals reach a certain echelon of power and authority within the company. Employees working at lower levels may be reluctant to share the truth about what is really going on in their daily work experiences. The executive is constantly getting filtered information and people are anxious about their interactions with this leader because of the power he or she holds. A lack of authenticity and mutuality in relationships can occur, which naturally leads to feelings of isolation. At the top levels of a company, there is often little room to check out your thinking with others. You may be relied on to make decisions, but have no one you can talk to openly about your thinking on an issue. Problems must be solved alone. This executive may feel that he or she doesn’t have anyone to talk to about the issues that really matter. Thus, feelings of isolation and loneliness mount. To add to the stress, leaders often have little free time for engaging in mutual relationships outside of work. They are often working long hours. Their work dominates much of their lives, leaving little room for feeling connected with family and friends outside of work. When left to make decisions on your own without any trusted advisor or colleague, you are more likely to ruminate on problems and feel stuck. There are few opportunities to talk through your thoughts. You are living in your head. This constant internal dialogue and lack of reciprocity in relationships is a recipe for loneliness. How do you know if you are lonely? It may seem that it would be obvious whether you are feeling lonely or not. But typically it is not. You may have become accustomed to how things operate at your job and can’t imagine it being any different. You may feel the repercussions of loneliness (sadness, withdrawal, low energy, ruminating mind, poor sleep, etc.) but not understand the root cause. Or maybe you are trying not to think of your work situation as lonely because you see no cure for it. If that is the case, there are ways of overcoming loneliness in the workplace and reasons for doing so! Read through the following symptoms of loneliness in leaders to see if they apply to you: • You feel as if there is no “safe zone” at work, no one you can talk to about the things that really matter, where you know your thoughts and opinions are safe and/or confidential. • The people around you want your job so you do not feel safe to disclose any personal information or uncertainty for fear that they leadership excellence essentials presented by HR.com | 04.2014 36


LE_April2014_Final
To see the actual publication please follow the link above