Is leadership a lonely place?

Sep 20, 2021

Leadership can be a lonely place to live. This is not new; it is a common thing. Sometimes it is self-isolation out of fear of being judged. But, on the other hand, it can be public isolation, caring for and befriending many, with very few personal friends to care for us, with whom to be honest and vulnerable.  

As leaders, we can build the perception that we are known by many, revealing bits of ourselves to staff during staff meetings every week to hundreds or thousands while, in reality, we are actually known by very few.  

Leadership can be dehumanizing. People know and appreciate you for the work you do, then what you say publicly, the care you give, the vision you cast, but very few know us to the core, the most authentic version of ourselves.  

The problem is that loneliness and isolation impact our ability to lead and our longevity in leadership positions we have been called. As humans, we need to remember that we were not meant to live in isolation. Instead, we need daily, meaningful affirmation from others to lead well and be active members of society. 

So how do we achieve the balance of leading others well and leading ourselves well? Here are a couple of thoughts…

  1.  Find Your People

Give yourself permission to be friends with people you serve. Everyone needs a few people they can be real with; they can be vulnerable and trusted to share with and confide in when needed. These people can be hard to find, but they exist. They do not judge; they love, are open, and see you as a friend first, leader second. Give yourself permission to be their friend. 

  1.  Un-circle Your Wagons

One of the mistakes we make in leadership is we ‘circle our wagons,’ meaning we spend all of our time within our tribe. We attend and serve only in our organizations. Yet, there is so much richness to explore beyond what you know. Find a cohort of people to connect with that are outside your usual tribe. What you will find there, if you invest in the relationship and grow in your own ability to be vulnerable, is a group of people who do not care that much about your context but care deeply about you.

  1.  Go One on One

Isolation breeds loneliness, self-deprecation, doubt, overthinking and lack of confidence. In leadership, we talk much about finding someone to talk to regularly to help you move through these unhelpful thoughts and feelings and give you strategies to move forward with more strength and confidence in your leadership. If you do not have a coach, mentor, spiritual director or just a listening ear. Find one.

  1.  Get Prayer

In leadership, asking for Prayer can be really hard sometimes. We fight against our perception of ‘having it all together and wonder if that level of vulnerability is helpful as a leader. So, find people you can trust who might not even have a stake in your context and ask them to pray for you.


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