We’ve all heard the common phrase, “it’s lonely at the top.”
It’s not just a platitude, it’s actually got its fair share of psychological weight. Power dynamics, whether it’s that of popularity, wealth, or decision-making, can cause those at the top to feel distant and disconnected from their fellow man. The person at the top begins to feel distant and removed from the people beneath them.
As the article mentions, they feel looked up to, but not seen. Like celebrities who are put on pedestals, it’s almost as though those at the heights of society are seen as caricatures of themselves rather than real people.
It’s unfortunate, but leaders in business, no matter how big or small, do fall prey to this cycle of isolation and loneliness. And it’s so tragic.
Over the years, there is something I’ve learned about leadership that I wish everyone knew: leadership isn’t something you can or should do alone.
Leadership isn't something you can or should do alone.
4 Ways to Make Leadership More Collaborative
1) Trust Your Team
The best thing any leader can do for their business or project is simply to trust their team. Remember, you have them with you for a reason. You hired them or brought them along. If you don’t trust them to do the job, why are they here? Allow yourself to delegate and put responsibilities on their shoulders. Not only does it impart trust and respect, but it keeps you from bearing the burden alone.
When you don’t extend trust: whether it’s in micro-management, or going back and fixing work behind your employee’s backs, or in being highly critical without offering any solutions, you alienate yourself from them and sow seeds of resentment.
Allow your team to take ownership of the work as much as you do. You’re leading, but they’re supporting. You can’t do your job without them. So let them do the job you hired them to do.
2) Don’t Bear the Burden Alone
Part of the reason it can be so incredibly lonely in spaces of leadership—particularly for bosses and CEOs—is because there’s an unspoken and often unintentional front that gets put up. The boss is supposed to be this way. The boss needed to be stern and professional, they need to be respected, so they can’t do anything that would prevent the employees from respecting them…
Some bosses, on their desperate mission to earn the respect or approval of their employees, end up alienating them in the process. They come off as cold, intimidating, or insensitive. The boss then can’t open up to anyone. They can’t show vulnerability or any emotion apart from anger or disappointment and maybe, maybe a little bit of approval.
Being a leader is stressful. Leaders need support, especially in the workplace. If you can’t drop your guard or stop worrying about appearances for two seconds, how can you possibly get the support you need? Be strong and confident enough in yourself and your leadership ability to be your real self in the workplace.
Your team will be grateful for your authenticity, and you’ll find yourself able to better connect with others in the workplace.
3) Lead Through Service
A lot of people have the misconception that people in places of leadership are like monarchs in control of their own little kingdoms, taking joy in telling other people what to do all the time. And sure, for some people, leadership is a power trip. But that’s not real leadership. It’s not authentic leadership.
True leaders aren’t lording their position of power over anyone. They know that their position puts them in a unique place to help everyone around them! They lead by delegation and direction, yes, but they also lead through example and service. And that type of leadership doesn’t alienate anyone.
4) Make Time for Connections
At the top, we have a problem: and a lot of us won’t recognize that it can be a problem. And that’s the problem of never ever stopping. I know, I know: you want to win. You want to do it better, stronger, faster (I’m not trying to get the song in your head, promise) and so you never really stop working. That work ice cream social? Skip. Office birthday? Pass. After hours drinks? No thanks, working late.
You don’t need to skip every single social gathering. And it doesn’t just go for office workers, either. I’m talking to you too, investors. How many of you make time to go out with your fellow professionals, just for the social aspect of it?
We need each other! Isolation isn’t healthy. Just being able to talk and laugh and have a meal with people you work with, or people who just understand your job can be so beneficial when you’re in a leadership position.
You need those people in your life.
It can be lonely at the top—but I’m telling you, it doesn’t have to be. You can lead, you can be successful, but you don’t have to do it at the cost of your friends and relationships.