There was an excellent film some years ago, featuring Tom Courtney, called ‘The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner’ and there is a lesson there for all leaders.
Perhaps there is a distinct case for a business film called ‘The Loneliness of the Long Service Leader’.
Indeed never mind ‘long service’; any length of service would be appropriate because it is the most prevalent of all those factors that can make leadership so taxing as well as exciting and stimulating.
It seems remarkable that someone with drive, enthusiasm, dedication and determination can feel lonely and isolated, doesn’t it? Not at all because surprisingly most leaders exhibit the normal traits of normal people because, in the main, that is what they are, normal.
The leader is rightly expected to behave with the team as they would wish; with understanding, with kindness, with fairness, with discretion and with the reward of praise as appropriate.
All well and good but as the leader is a normal human being, why should he/she be denied these experiences?
The problem is, of course, that the higher one climbs up the corporate ladder, the fewer people there to offer them, especially praise, and that demands emotional stamina.
In fact, the rationale for upward praise could be viewed as somewhat dubious and probably a bit creepy.
It does mean that the leader has to give out, from time to time, a metaphorical and personal pat on the back if there is nobody else to do it.
Praise is one thing but what about all those other little issues that pile up without much attempt to put them out of their misery?
Little issues can develop into big issues if they aren’t stifled at an early stage but the temptation to shelve them, to brush them under the carpet can become a habit, with the chance that they might just rise up and bite at some time.
We all need someone to talk to but it isn’t always that easy to find the right person we can trust both for sensible advice and also for discretion.
Professional advisers are essential but in the end we have to accept that they have an agenda that isn’t always hidden. In the same vein family members will tend to have a naturally biased view in a protective way and that isn’t always the best solution.
After many years of specific and happy experience with Vistage UK I have no doubt that the very best solution for the lonely executive is to join a Vistage peer group.
It offers a safe and confidential environment where matters of some moment can be ventilated without fear or favour, without being embarrassed to disclose because other people have shown the way and in the certain knowledge that nobody has a hidden agenda.
Isolation and subsequent loneliness and a feeling of uncertainty will always be some of the happy aspects of leadership but they can be mitigated. If the peer group solution weren’t effective ask yourself why it is that so many CEOs and key executives have experienced the advantages over many years?
Be aware that it isn’t for everyone. Some people find that baring their soul in front of others is worse than feeling isolated. In addition the likelihood of being challenged is far too daunting a prospect. So be it but always remember:
“No-one is as smart as all of us”
Visit the Vistage UK website
Follow me on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook