Five Ways Leaders Can Combat Loneliness

You may have heard the saying, “It’s lonely at the top.” If you are leading a team, you know this is true. Leading can be lonely sometimes, especially when you may not get the chance to see your sales reps in person.

Art Petty, author, professor and leadership executive, says it’s not uncommon for leaders to sometimes feel isolated and lonely. Fortunately, though, there are some simple ways to move beyond feeling disconnected from your group.

In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we share Petty’s thoughts on how to overcome loneliness as a leader.

1. Remember that leading is a good thing. While you may sometimes feel like you are missing out on the watercooler chit-chat, it’s important to remember that you serve an important role as a leader. You have an opportunity to lead your team and cast a larger vote in your organization’s success. You can contribute and innovate in ways different than group members, notes Petty. Leading can be lonely, but it’s ultimately a good thing.

2. Think about your purpose and mission. You may miss interacting with your sales reps, especially if they are working remotely. When you cannot socially connect with others, you may begin to feel isolated. To combat this feeling of isolation, Petty recommends that leaders remember their purpose and mission. Your job is less about belonging and more about creating a sense of belonging and purpose for those you lead. Focus on helping, building and creating a positive work culture, and your loneliness will start to dissipate as you see your efforts turning into results, says Petty.

3. Make a “kitchen cabinet.” According to Petty, this term ties back to elected leaders creating an informal group of trusted advisors willing to share ideas and opinions. In political circles, these meetings often took place in someone's kitchen. However, you do not need to assemble a group in your kitchen for the concept to work. The idea is simply to cultivate people you can share ideas with and who can share their honest views of your ideas. This group can help you remain focused and true to your mission, helping alleviate feelings of loneliness.

4. Embrace curiosity. When you are feeling lonely, staying curious is one way to push back against those feelings. Ask your team members thoughtful questions to engage in mutual learning. Your curiosity could also lead you to “what if?” questions to inspire your team. Just remember to keep the questions light so it doesn’t seem like you are cross-examining your sales reps, advises Petty.

5. Supercharge your one-on-one meetings. When you visit with your sales reps individually, Petty recommends asking three questions: What’s working? What’s not? What do you need me to do to help you succeed? The answers, he says, will help you re-center on your role and purpose. You won’t feel lonely and isolated for long when you remember that your people need you.

As a leader, you may sometimes feel like you are on your own, often faced with making difficult or unpopular decisions. It helps to combat these feelings of loneliness by reframing your thoughts. Remember why you chose your leadership position and how you are helping your team and company. It’s also helpful to ask thoughtful questions and remain curious.

Leading doesn’t have to be a lonely undertaking. When you look for ways to engage your team and offer support, you will feel a renewed sense of excitement and purpose.

Compiled by Audrey Sellers

Source: Art Petty helps executives and firms develop the emerging leaders critical for their future in this era of change and uncertainty. He has written multiple books and teaches management courses at DePaul University.

filed under August 2020
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