Yes, it is lonely at the top.
50% CEOs report experiencing feelings of loneliness in their role,
61% believe it hinders their performance.
First-time CEOs are particularly susceptible to this isolation.
Nearly 70 percent of first-time CEOs who experience loneliness report that the feelings negatively affect their performance, lead to poor decision-making, negativity, fatigue and frustration.
These feelings are not limited to CEOs.
In fact, loneliness can affect any individual with newfound authority, such as entrepreneurs, team managers, community leaders.
But moreover, women in leadership positions face additional challenges: when they run their own businesses and at the same time raise their kids alone, when they come back to work after maternity leave, when they face inequality in corporate environments, and most of all women when they do not fit in leadership stereotypes.
Why is it lonely when we are in leadership positions?
- It's lonely mostly during periods of decision-making.
- It's lonely because we were supposed to have people on this journey with us. Leaders are not supposed to be alone.
- It's lonely because nobody understands and shares our vision. It's our mission, it's our goal, not theirs to serve it and go after it.
- It's lonely because we carry our own unique emotional baggage. We feel things before others feel them: the passion, the burden, the dream, the doubts, the stress, the rejection, the satisfaction.
- It's lonely because relationships change after we become a leader and people we counted on, do not come through.
- It's lonely because somebody has to set the example, and to make the commitment, and that somebody is us. We do things before others do them, we initiate.
Loneliness may be a period of pain, but also an insightful one. We can embrace loneliness and turn it into a productive period, where we learn more about ourselves and we learn first how to lead ourselves through hard times. We can see these period of loneliness as something positive, something that takes us even further in our personal and professional growth.
We can reach out to our network, create or strengthen our support group, get advice from top leaders, from an advisory board from a coach/counselor, or from a mastermind group.
Let's not be afraid of the white space in our calendar, don't fill in this time with more social media, but learn to listen to the silence and become more creative through it.
The name "Odysseus" comes from the word "odyssomai", which means being hated by gods and men, therefore being left alone to survive.
Even if you are struggling by yourself, in the end you will reach your Ithaca.
If you find yourself in this position today as a leader, though you may feel lonely … you’re not alone.
For more information on how to deal with lonely feelings when at leadership positions, please contact me here.