Leadership Lesson #7: It’s lonely at the top

Leadership Lesson 7

Author’s note: This is the seventh in a series of articles about the leadership lessons learned while hiking Usery Mountain with my 17-year-old son.  Read them all here.

 

While on the seven-mile hike around Usery Mountain, there were stretches when I could see no one.

No one on the path ahead of me.

No one on the path behind or below me.

With not even the whisper of a breeze, it was quiet. Very quiet.

I appreciated the silence and the solitude. Mostly.

But then I got a little lonely.

It seemed to me that it would feel good to share in the triumphs of overcoming the challenging stretches and to share in the awe and the wonderment of the amazing views. To be in community with someone who was experiencing the same thing I was at the same time I was.

It was missing.

I was lonely.

It reminded me how leadership can be very lonely sometimes. In your organization you might feel a certain peer-less-ness with no one at your level in the organization doing exactly what you are doing.

No one with whom to share the victories.

No one with whom to share the setbacks.

No one to seek advice from or give advice to.

That’s why leaders at all levels of the organization, not just senior leaders, need to find a peer group.

Their peeps.

People who get you and you get them.

Earlier in my career I felt that sense of peerlessness as Director of User Experience in a large organization. I essentially ran an agency within a corporation.  We did great work and were highly respected.  But I was lonely.

There were certain topics (struggles, frustrations with bureaucracy, etc.) that I deliberately chose not to share with my staff for reasons of professionalism. And I certainly wasn’t about to share those struggles with our clients, even though we all worked for the same company.  I didn’t have a peer who was doing what I was doing in the organization.

And there were days when professional loneliness moved in and set up camp.

Those were the days when it was so important to reach out to my peers outside of the organization. People I could learn from, commiserate with and rejoice with. People I could laugh with over the significance that was sometimes places on such insignificant matters.

It felt good to be with them and when I reached out, I always wished I’d done so sooner.

It is lonely at the top.

Enjoy the silence and the solitude for a bit.

And then reach out to others.

It’s okay to be alone once in a while, but don’t go it alone.

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