The articles discussing leadership that are floating around online could almost compete with all the cat videos out there.
And for good reason…
There is a shortage of strong leaders and the value that they offer is undeniable. The popularity of leadership training and seminars have also risen over time and focus on developing skills like conflict management, strategic communication, team motivation, and the list goes on.
But with all the dialogue around leadership skills, there is one skill that is rarely mentioned at all. There are many challenges that come with taking on a leadership role, but the most difficult of them all may be the loneliness many of us experience. And although developing the means to deal with this facet of leadership is necessary, it is often overlooked.
This article will examine some of the reasons for the loneliness endured by leaders and some strategies deal with it in a healthy way.
Why is Leadership Lonely?
“It is strange to be known so universally and yet to be so lonely." -- Albert Einstein”
- The Intimidation Factor – Even if you are the friendliest person around, it is likely that others will be intimidated by you. This can create invisible walls between that seem to cut off contact from others.
- The “Appropriateness” Factor – When you are in leadership position, it often creates certain boundaries that you must adhere to. This means that it becomes inappropriate to confide in many of your team members as well as to those that you report to. Leaders usually have fewer people that they can turn to for advice, consolation, etc.
- The “Enforcer” Factor – As a leader, sometimes it becomes necessary to enforce unpopular policies or even dismiss people from your team. This can result in receiving the cold shoulder and unpleasant mutterings from those that report to you. It’s unpleasant but it’s part of the job.
The reasons above are just a few things that contribute to the loneliness that plague those of us in leadership positions. In the next section, we’ll outline a few ways to deal with this aspect of leadership.
Moving Through the Grips of LonelinessEven if you’re currently plagued with feelings of isolation, it is possible to relieve them and develop more balance. There are a variety of strategies that you can use to develop this skill, which include the following:
- Develop Strong Relationships with Your Team: Even though there are certain boundaries that you should probably adhere to, it doesn’t mean that you can’t have healthy relationships with your team members. Employ reward and recognition to show them that you value them and take the time to interact in meaningful ways.
- Nurture Your Network: The people that you associate with outside of work, such as family and friends are an important part of maintaining balance as a leader. Make sure to maintain these relationships and you may also benefit from employing a coach, mentor, or therapist to provide additional support. The strong community can be a powerful way to alleviate loneliness.
- Learn to Appreciate Solitude: Humans are not designed to be alone for extended periods, but that doesn’t mean we can’t use small breaks from others to get in touch with our inner core. Taking this time to meditate or engage in other reflective activities can offer a host of benefits including a greater sense of belonging.
Many leaders are surrounded by tons of people and a flurry of activity every single day. However, this does not eliminate the struggle with loneliness. Strong leaders learn how to work with these feelings and overcome them as they pave the way toward greatness.
This is an article by a guest contributor, Annabelle Smyth.