In the sixth part of this series looking at the importance for leaders of working effectively with your emotions we will examine LONELINESS.
- Who can I talk to about this?
- Am I the only one seeing this?
- Nobody understands me.
By definition, if people are following you are not alongside you. Even if you don't do anything to distance yourself from your team, just taking on a leadership role means that people will put you in a different category. Even the most authentic leader cannot afford to burden their team with all of their innermost thoughts and feelings. You have to shoulder the responsibility.
Pretty soon, not only are you treated differently, you become different. As a leader you have to perceive situations and think in a way that makes your experience of the world unlike that of the people around you. This means that you tend to leave behind co-workers who are not travelling with you on the leadership journey. Not only that, you are leaving your past self behind. You can't even keep yourself company.
Some people respond to this by desperately trying to hold on to the old relationships they had with their colleagues and cling to that sense of belonging by acting like one of the gang. But this is fraught with difficulties, especially when the time comes to exercise authority.
So, loneliness is almost inevitable for a leader, but it can also become addictive and dangerous. It's an easy step from realising that you are standing out to believing that you are outstanding in every way. Feeling like you are the 'special one' can mean that you start to over-value your own opinions and ideas. It is important to stay connected to people who can provide you with balanced perspectives, maybe even seek out people who are guaranteed to disagree with you.
- Part 1 FEAR, part 2 GUILT, part 3 ANGER, part 4 DISGUST and part 5 DISILLUSIONMENT
- A Forbes article on the loneliness of leadership
- A study indicating that lonely leaders are bad for business
- An interview with neuroscientist Antonio Damasio on the importance of feelings in human functioning
- A Harvard Business Review article on emotional intelligence as a key leadership skill