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Sunday, 13 March 2011

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Leader (or Short Distance for That Matter!)

One of the abiding issues which seem to afflict many leaders is that of isolation; nobody to talk to who will give them genuine feedback and honest opinions.

The primary problem is that most people on a business have a hidden agenda and sometimes it isn't even hidden.  By the way, that goes even for trusted professional advisers, non-executive directors and spouses, especially spouses.   They all (well, most of them) have an agenda which wants to be protective and that isn't always what is needed.

The problem escalates when the leader is long distance; perhaps he/she runs a business which is an offshoot of an overseas company or even a subsidiary of a corporate enterprise with the usual faceless people asking for esoteric information most of which seems totally valueless but takes a vast amount of time to prepare.

There is no doubt at all that isolation causes stress; the solution is to find somebody or some organisation which can supply that vital ingredient of total detachment; someone who cares but who isn't involved in any way other than as a trusted companion, or even better, as a peer group of like minded people.

Dig a little deeper and consider people in a business who operate from home, perhaps some considerable distance from base.  Their feelings of isolation are often compounded by a lack of understanding of their needs and emotions; often their performance is assessed without any conception of their feelings of isolation and lack of effective communication with headquarters.

In the end it all comes down to more effective communication and, please, not only to complain about performance and to add more and more regulation to monitor activity.  Trust must be given and moreover, demonstrated visibly so that the long distance operative can show reciprocal trust in the leadership.

We are all pack animals at heart; we all need reassurance that we doing the right thing and we all need challenge when we are not.  The solution?  For the leader, find a trusted advisor or better, a trusted peer group, and then make sure that all your people are helped to feel more involved and less isolated.  Performance can only improve as a consequence.

I would really welcome your comments!

For more information visit www.vistage.co.uk and www.maa-uk.co.uk
To contact us, email to ivan.goldberg@vistage.co.uk

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