Leadership Loneliness – It’s Real

“Leadership can be lonely, and the only way to overcome that loneliness is to surround yourself with truth-tellers and people who care about you.”   

— Bill George


We’ve all heard the saying “It’s lonely at the top” right? There has been quite a bit of research conducted that shows that being a CEO can be a lonely job. A 2012 Harvard Business Review article referenced a survey that found that 50% of CEOs admitted they feel lonely in their role. The article went on to report that nearly 70% of first-time CEOs who experienced loneliness, reported that the feeling negatively affected their performance.

I do believe that being a CEO has the potential to be incredibly lonely. However, I equally believe that a leader’s loneliness doesn’t just happen when that person gets to the top of an organization. I know from personal experience that loneliness, no matter what a person’s level as a leader, is very real and causes difficulty and isolation for any leader who experiences it. If you have ever felt the same… then you are in good company.

Loneliness can cause you as a leader to feel fatigued or distracted, possibly experience self-doubt or even feel like you’re not worthy of the position. Failure to address loneliness can result in loss of perspective and presence – two very important attributes of a successful leader. When you feel lonely you risk becoming disconnected from your responsibilities and just go through the motions of work. Your effectiveness as a leader can suffer.

Feeling lonely because of leadership-related experiences does not make you any less of a leader.

I have three steps that I believe will help leaders at all levels to battle leadership loneliness:

  1. Inside Your Head: Acknowledge that in your role as a leader, things happen daily that can make you feel isolated and lonely. Feeling lonely because of those experiences does not make you any less of a leader. However, the way you deal with them most certainly does define you as a leader. Know that if you decide to be lonely and isolate yourself, it’s only going to make it worse.
  2. Inside Your Organization: Build a strong relationship with a few close people inside your organization. If your HR department has business partners, this is a great place to start. They have a great deal of knowledge and might know others who might be good for you to connect to who have similar issues. If you don’t have business partners in your organization, think about another leader at a similar level that you have positively connected with. Perhaps that person is facing many of the issues that you face in your leadership. If this is a positive relationship with a leader you trust, you will be able to share what you’ve learned through similar experiences.
  3. Inside Your Profession: Cultivate relationships with leaders outside your organization. I’m not talking about collecting business cards here. It’s about finding a group of leaders outside your company. It’s not only a great way to discover that you’re not alone in your leadership, but it can lead to fantastic relationships with leaders that can last a career.

Just a few proactive steps that you can take to minimize your loneliness and grow as a leader. If I can help, just let me know.

Coming soon!!!

I’m very excited to announce that I will be launching two online leadership coaching groups this fall. The first is for leaders who are at the manager level and below who have been in their role for three years or less. The second is for leaders who are at the manager level and below with over three years’ experience. 

The focus for each group will be to develop, network and grow as leaders in a supportive and confidential environment. Each group will have a maximum of eight leader participants and will meet online two times per month for a six months period. As these are my inaugural leadership coaching groups for HumansLeadingHumans – I will be pricing participation at a very low cost in exchange for feedback from participants and managers.

If you are interested or know someone who would benefit from being a part of a group of similar leaders, please email me for more details.

I’m Kirk Allen Patten, a seasoned leader with years of training and practice in coaching and developing leaders at all experiences and levels. If interested in having a quick discussion on how I might help you, your team or company, please send me an email at kirk@humansleadinghumans.com

Authentic in PURPOSE… Skilled in PRACTICE… Rich in PARTNERSHIP

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