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Leadership is a lonely job

Two-minute read.

Leadership is a lonely job.

You don’t meet many people on the extra mile.

It’s lonely at the top.

These are phrases we hear being banded about a lot, but is there any truth in them?

The answer is, of course, in some circumstances, yes. But that depends upon the individual because leadership doesn’t have to be a lonely job.

I would argue that if you consistently feel leadership is a lonely job, you’re doing something wrong. And that presents a beautiful opportunity to find more enjoyment in the work you do, which will, in turn, lead to increased productivity, according to the research into happiness.

The Mental Health Foundation has chosen ‘loneliness’ as the theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, and their research found that the COVID pandemic has exacerbated loneliness. It’s been an important factor contributing to higher levels of distress linked to people’s sense of isolation and the challenges of maintaining the human connection in the hybrid workplace.

(You can listen to my Mental Health  Podcast Playlist for Leaders here)

As a senior leader, much of what we achieve is delivered through others.

It is our job to set and articulate the vision.

We must connect people to that vision and inspire them to work with drive and passion to make it a reality.

We must then create the conditions for them to succeed and clear out the obstacles that may stop them.

And if we are to deliver these results through others, relationships become one of the critical enablers.

Our job as a leader is to work hard at developing relationships that are big enough and strong enough to make substantial requests of people when needed. And if we’re constantly working on building, developing, and nurturing these relationships, we shouldn’t feel lonely.


Loneliness, however, is a close companion of ego.

When we think we have all of the answers or our way is always the right way, we stop collaborating with those around us. And eventually, we find we have no one around us.

Loneliness is the taskmaster’s intimate ally.

When we fail to see the human being in front of us and focus solely on the goals and objectives, people feel like a resource to be used. And at this point, they take a step away from us, and loneliness takes their seat at the table.

So, if we remember what it means to be a leader and what our job as a leader truly is, it’s not a lonely job, but rather a truly privileged position to be in.

It’s an opportunity to go on a journey with exceptional people, working side by side to pursue something meaningful.

How can that ever be a lonely job?

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