Loneliness and Leadership
I recently read a book by John C. Maxwell, called The Leadership Handbook.
I was drawn to the book by the title of the 1st chapter: If it’s lonely at the top, you’re not doing something right.
One of my key reflections from my last leadership role is that I was incredibly lonely. It didn’t happen all at once. In fact the loneliness developed year after year, the further I got from working the front line. The same front line that I had built many of my solid relationships.
In his book, Maxwell talks about the belief that leader’s should “keep a distance” to ensure that they hold themselves above and apart from their people. This strategy is believed to help protect them from getting hurt and being vulnerable to the actions of others who will inevitably let them down. I can think of countless times that I employed that strategy to protect myself, and my position of power.
But if you really think of it, if you are all alone, that means that no one is following you. If no one is following you, you are not really leading. As Maxell explains, “It would seem impossible to sense the needs of your people, know their dreams or feel their heartbeat. “
He goes on to identify 4 other truths about leadership:
No one ever got to the top alone – Spend your time giving people the resources they need to join you at the top, rather than on actions (or non actions) that protect your position.
Making it to the top is essential to taking others to the top – This begins with personal success. Gain credibility by demonstrating initiative, sacrifice and maturity
Taking people to the Top is more fulfilling than arriving alone – Simply put, a boss says, “go” and a leader says “let’s go.”
Much of the time leaders are not at the top – True leaders spend their time serving other leaders and lifting them up.
My reflection has solidified my belief that loneliness is a choice. If you are a lonely leader you are not doing something right.
I agree with Maxwell when he states “Leadership is relational as much as it is positional. An individual who takes a relational approach to leadership will never be lonely. Good leaders who remain connected to their people stoop- that’s the only way to reach down and pull others up”