If you are a leader, and you feel lonely, you’re not alone. The loneliness of the leader is a well-known phenomenon less discussed than others because we all have the feeling that a leader is someone strong, able to face many circumstances with the appropriate calm.
The truth is that the weight of responsibility can make you feel lonely and, at times, affect your performance.
Good news is that is you feel lonely, it means you’re aware of your feelings. Trying to avoid them and pretend that everything is fine for a while won’t work; thus, you must handle it.
As with any challenge, you can use this situation to grow and discover what you can learn from it.
Feeling lonely doesn’t mean you’re alone. There are more people in your situation with whom you can engage and build trusted relationships. Developing a peer network is a good idea to share your challenges and find understanding. Depending on your level, you might find this peer network in your organization. However, if you’re a top manager, you may look outside the company to find your peer group.
Sharing feelings or looking for advice and connection are good ways to lighten the weight of responsibility, finding new perspectives and detach from the emotions, which is good for learning and avoiding getting stuck. This can be done by getting that mentioned peer group or by working with a mentor or a coach, for example.
When employees perceive that the way leaders use power is fair, they respond favourably. Building this kind of trust leads the way to a new leadership strategy: empowerment, which implies giving your power away.
Empowerment is a way to include the team in the decision-making process, to give them the opportunity to participate, capitalizing their expertise and experience. Empowering your team creates a secondary level of leadership that can help you when you can’t be present in key decision moments. Besides, as a great collateral effect, it eventually reduces the loneliness of the leader. Nothing like having people around who understand what it takes to make decisions.
Leaders who don’t believe in empowerment can become isolated from their teams, probably increasing this feeling of loneliness, and therefore affecting their performance.
Leaders must be team players
The image of a leader facing alone all types of difficulties and sacrificing themselves for the greater good is outdated and more appropriate for a Saturday afternoon film. Today, the context is so complex and ambiguous that nobody can face the coming challenges without a team. Now, the leader must be a team player with a primus inter pares (first among equals) role: all the members work together and share responsibility albeit the leader has, somehow, the final word.
The more you trust your team, the more you share the power with them, the less you feel the loneliness of the leader and more authority you will gain.