A Different Kind Of Lonely

Leadership is a different kind of lonely. 

You’re around people as a leader, in-person or virtually, constantly. And yet, for leaders, presence and proximity don’t take away the loneliness that comes with leading.

It’s not that simple. In fact, the more people a leader hires the more lonely they can feel. It’s also where leaders can get in trouble. Leadership Loneliness can lead to isolation. When leaders isolate themselves, the clock starts ticking. Bad decisions are soon to follow.

On the other hand, part of leadership is designed to be lonely. As President Harry Truman’s famous sign on his desk said, “The buck stops here.” Sure, leadership requires someone making decisions and feeling the weight of how those decisions play out. But if leaders aren’t careful, they will underestimate the weight leadership brings and will try to carry it alone. The best way to deal with leadership loneliness isn’t to deny the responsibility of the role but to proactively fight against it.

One of the ways I fought against leadership loneliness is to meet consistently with leaders in other fields.  There are several advantages to this:

1. Simply processing challenges I was facing with someone who wasn’t working with me provided fresh perspective. They could take a look at the situation with unfiltered eyes. They had nothing to lose or gain in the decision.

2. Hearing the challenges they were facing made me think, “Oh, maybe I’m not as bad of a leader as I thought. They’re facing a similar challenge.”

3. Asking these leaders the question, “If you were me what would you do?” helped combat the loneliness.  They were helping me. I wasn’t alone. Some of my best ideas and decisions came from this question, and simply writing down what I heard, and then implementing it.

4. Helping these leaders think through their challenges helped me think through mine as well.

Every time after these meetings, I felt wiser, better and a lot less lonely.

Let me be more specific. This past year, I started a Transformation Table with three other leaders. A Transformation Table is from John Maxwell and Rob Hoskins’ book, Change Your World. John and Rob have 26 values they mention in the book and a small group curriculum to lead leaders through each one. (The curriculum is free and can be accessed here: https://changeyourworld.com/)

Sitting down with these leaders and discussing each value was so important for me in my first full year of a new season. Not only did they help me think through the ups and downs of a start-up, these gatherings helped me with leadership loneliness. You see, I could have rationalized that I didn’t need this. After all, I’ve been a part of early start-up days before. I know the drill.

But I would have forfeited what I learned and underestimated the challenges each new season brings in the process. These Transformation Table gatherings strengthened me, encouraged me and helped me take one step forward. One of the many lessons I’ve learned from John Maxwell is, “Keep moving forward.” These gatherings helped me keep moving.

This year, I want you to do the same. Find 3 or 4 leaders outside your organization and meet with them consistently this year. If you don’t know what to meet about, download the Transformation Table curriculum and start there.

If you do, here’s what I believe you will discover:

1. You’ll look back on these gatherings and ask, “Why did I not to do something like this sooner?”
2. You’ll see ideas that you could have never discovered on your own.
3. Most of all, you’ll discover a gift:  Leadership doesn’t have to be lonely.

FOR You,
Jeff Henderson

Leave a Comment