Once upon a time there was a man called Odysseus, the king of Ithaka who fought for a decade at the war of Troy together with his men. After the war, he started his trip back home but unfortunately he and his 12 ships were driven off course by storms. They travelled all around the Mediterranean sea, chased by angry gods, seduced by vindictive women, life-threatened and shipwrecked by humanlike landscapes. During 10 years of struggling, Odysseus lost all his men but eventually escaped and survived from all these tortures and challenges, because he was the only one believing in his return back home. And he reached there alone.
Leadership is a lonely trip. And like Odysseus, it's not about the final destination (Ithaca). It's all about the journey; the insightful and painful travails but also the exciting and wise-making adventures.
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?
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.
TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR LIFE.