It may be a cliché, but that doesn’t make it any less true: It is lonely at the top. A sense of isolation isn’t just an issue for newly ascendant CEOs whose relationships with their pre-promotion peers have changed. Longtime executives without a network of supportive colleagues or unable to stay connected to those they are tasked with leading face this challenge as well.
An advancement that puts someone in charge of his or her former “equals” can spark an array of interpersonal challenges, says Susanne Biro, master coach and co-founder of Syntrina Leadership LLC, Indianapolis, a boutique leadership development firm specializing in working with senior-level leaders and their teams. Perhaps a former peer (or even several) coveted the position, Biro posits, causing resentment, disappointment and jealously towards the one chosen—emotions that can undermine support for the new leader. Or they might have wanted another person to receive the promotion, resulting in the same problematic attitudes. Trying to keep things as they were before the promotion can also cause problems.
“Leaders and peers might try to remain friends and fail to recognize the need for a new relationship with new boundaries of what can be discussed, with whom, how and when,” Biro explains. “This can be extremely subtle, but the results can be large.”
The speed at which a promotion happens can also contribute to interpersonal issues, says Deedee Myers, Ph.D., CEO of CUESolutions provider DDJ Myers Ltd., a Phoenix-based firm providing executive search/recruitment, strategic organization and leadership consulting services.
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