Leadership is Lonely

“Leadership is lonely.”

Recently, these were the words that started a coaching session. You know those moments when time feels like it stops? Where you have a million other thoughts, yet somehow find your way back to the situation at hand?  That’s what happened in that room.  However, here, I’m going to own where my mind went.

Yep, leadership is lonely!

Now in order to avoid this sounding like a whiney victim post, I’m going to focus on what I do when this feeling overwhelms me:

  • Take a break. There is no shame in walking away to collect yourself. At one of my lowest moments as a leader, I called my best friend and we flew to TX for an extended weekend. For me, I need time to mentally recover – not as “boss” but as Tricia. Then I’m able to value other perspectives and options to a situation.
  • Find outlets for stress. At this point, there is a definitely pattern between when I exercise (play volleyball, etc) and how fast I get stressed. No one wants a walking time bomb of a leader – make sure you are taking quality time for yourself too.
  • Find a partner. Being a leader doesn’t mean you can’t partner with people to lead.  In fact, leadership teams today suffer from the lone wolf approach versus leadership teams. Are there people you can partner with towards the goals?
  • Leverage your network. Yes, as a leader I often have information that is confidential and that must be honored. This does not prevent you from asking for help. I’ve reached out to people for a variety of benefits: some just to give me a hug, some to listen as I ranted in general terms, some to coach me towards moving forward, some to distract me with something completely unrelated, and some to just sit with me in silence. When I feel lonely, being alone is the worst. Remembering that people are invested and there to help me too – even if they can’t in a particular situation, is sometimes all I need to keep going.
  • Token Reminder.  I have several of tokens of appreciation that I can either physically touch or see to help remind myself of the bigger picture…the good that my leadership is helping accomplish. I can usually quiet the inner angst with remembering that there will always be highs and lows.
  • Grieve. Then there are times that no matter the good intentions, no matter the desires, no matter the what-ifs…you may find yourself with less friends than you started with as a leader.  Personally, I have found that trying to act as “whatever, I didn’t care anyway” is a joke. I absolutely cared.  That loss may have been avoided and may not have been avoided as a result of my leadership and/or their behavior but regardless – it’s a loss.  So I have to respect that I need time to grieve any loss in my life – leader or not.

I think this is another reason why I really dislike Dilbert cartoons…do you really know what is going through the pointy-hair boss’ mind?  I’m positive many people have no idea how many times I think “leadership is lonely”.  That’s because I’ve learned to use these approaches to keep myself leading; when sometimes quitting seems like a very reasonable choice. Yet, if we all tried a little harder to remember every role is challenging – imagine what we could accomplish.

How do you deal with leadership being lonely?

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