“It’s lonely at the top” isn’t just a phrase used in books and movies. The higher up you go, the more pervasive loneliness becomes.
Have you ever been in the middle of a crowd and felt completely alone? This is what it can feel like to be a leader. There are people all around you, so there are many opportunities to connect; despite this, it can feel as if there are barriers to connecting on a deeper level: power differences, being afraid to reveal too much personal or confidential company information, expectations for leaders, and the general pressure of scaling a business into a sustainable place.
Why Leader Loneliness Is Important to Acknowledge
There is a difference between loneliness and solitude. For busy leaders, solitude is extremely valuable. The meaning of solitude is to have some time to think and sort out complex situations on your own. Loneliness is more of a mindset that can include feeling misunderstood or unaccepted.
Isolation is a state of mind that interferes with your ability to achieve your full potential. Over a long period of time, feeling lonely or isolated can have serious health effects, including depression, stress, and poor decision-making.
How to Handle Leader Loneliness
Eliminating loneliness in leadership is like not paying your bills. It’s easy to pretend for a while that everything is fine, but it always catches you in the end.
Both as a leader who has had to deal with loneliness as well as someone who has worked with leaders who struggle with loneliness, I know how challenging it is.
It’s also not something that needs to be fixed. If you feel lonely as a leader, you are more likely to:
1. Be aware of and able to acknowledge your feelings.
2. Not form friendships with every person you work with or lead (nor should you).
3. Recognize that you are human.
All three of the traits listed above are positive aspects of excellent leadership and don’t need fixing. Occasional loneliness is inherent in leading people, especially as your influence grows.
Find Growth in Loneliness
Even though loneliness brings struggles and sadness, it can also open the door to the next idea, opportunity, or change. Our work can be amazing if we are brave enough to turn towards ourselves when we are alone.
I challenge myself and others not to fix emptiness, but to discover what can be learned from it. Time taken to reflect, write, read, and embrace such a time can provide perspective impossible to obtain in a boardroom.
Engage With Peers Who Understand What You’re Going Through
All kinds of people, including leaders, attempt to fix loneliness by spending time with people who can help them forget it. While this works temporarily, it often leaves unattended the underlying roots of loneliness and the long-term experience of “alone together.”
Rather than jumping into large groups of people, build business and personal relationships with others who will celebrate with you in good times and encourage you to do the difficult work of self-analysis when you are lonely or facing other challenges as a leader. People who try to fix you are probably more uncomfortable with your discomfort than you are.
How Have You Handled Loneliness?
What lessons have you learned when handling loneliness? One of the ways I handle loneliness proactively is by mastering the maestro mindset. By doing this, I find that it helps keep me, and others who have mastered this mindset, more grounded.
Take the first step towards changing your mindset by getting in touch with me to find out how mastering the maestro mindset can help you handle loneliness.