When you think of someone in the C-Suite or Executive level, what picture comes to mind? Most people see power, prestige, prosperity, and influence … right out of a scene from a movie. There is also another piece of this perfect puzzle that many do not see. There are many names for it, I’ll call it The Lonely Leader.
Maybe the position you’re in is one that you’ve dreamed up for years. Maybe it was the next logical step. Maybe you were in the right place at the right time … or maybe, just maybe you were the best and most qualified person for that position. Whatever brought you to that position, along with being proud of what you’ve accomplished, chances are you’re also feeling isolated, lonely, and no longer “one of them”…
Survey after survey and study after study revealed that half of CEOs report experiencing feelings of loneliness in their role, and of this group, 61 percent 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. Female executives are said to be more susceptible to being lonely, as some have been labeled a “trail blazer” and others are known as “the first”…
Male or female, there are questions that you ask yourself when you are in this level of authority:
- Who can I share my frustrations with…that I trust?
- Is there anyone that I can discuss confidential matters with…openly?
- What about those ideas that I have that haven’t made it to the white board. Do I have anyone I can discuss those with … who will be honest?
The truth is, you’re not alone in your loneliness. Having surveyed hundreds of women in leadership positions, these feelings are real and when I share that they are not alone with their feelings, there is a little sigh of relief knowing, it’s not just them.
If we go back a short time ago, when women were first entering into leadership positions, ok, maybe short in dog years, we were always told “Never let them see you sweat” this is not what we live by today. Great leaders today show their vulnerability as well as their empathy, courage, and generosity.
And yet, the loneliness does creep in and with that comes second guessing ourselves. No matter how prepared you thought you were, there is always something that will pop up that will make you feel “less than” and now our favorite behavior shows up … The Imposter Syndrome. Didn’t we evict her once or twice before? Being in the top position doesn’t have a manual to study. It doesn’t have a person to ask how they would do something. And it doesn’t come with the “how to feel when you’re no longer part of the team” solution either.
What can you do?
The First Steps are to Observe-Ask Questions-Listen and most of all KNOW YOUR PEOPLE!
Yes, it sounds like everything you know you learned in kindergarten, but it’s true.
Observe-Everything and everyone around you will give you insight into what is working and what has an opportunity to work better.
Ask Questions-If you know me, you know I have been dubbed “The Question Queen”, a title that I love and has given me an inside view and deeper understanding into people and situations. People tend to open up and share their thoughts.
Listen-After you’ve asked the question, listen to the responses. Sometimes, you are getting an answer to something you didn’t ask but many times you will hear answers that you may not have expected so listen carefully. You are also hearing ideas shared, directly from the person that has the experience you are looking for, in their own words, so listen even more carefully.
Know Your People-Why are they working in the company or organization? What do they love about what they do? What would they change? What are they still looking forward to accomplishing? These are the golden nuggets that many leaders don’t take the time to find out.
The Second Step is to surround yourself with others in your position, who have the same responsibilities, the same challenges, and yes the same loneliness.
Being in the C-Suite or Executive level has great responsibility to many, it is also an achievement that should be celebrated on the next great chapter in your professional life. Remember though, you can’t and shouldn’t do it alone. While it may not take a village, it will take trust to reach out and ask for help. It’s not a sign of weakness, it’s an important skill to learn. Leadership can be a joy, but it also comes with a lot of weighty responsibility and can be truly lonely at times. You don’t have to go it alone!
When women reflect on how they lead, they realize that they are responsible for their outcomes. Successful women don’t play it safe … they trust, they act with intention … they go with their gut.
The time is now. We support Executive Women to BE the leaders needed for the rich future ahead.
What has your experience been as a leader? We’d love to hear from you.