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Leadership and loneliness

Sailing as Captain on merchant ships was a high point of my career

Captain is the senior most rank on a ship

It came with a lot of perks

A private luxurious cabin with a living room and day room, a private office space

Stewards serving tea and coffee through the day

The works…

But along with all this came with great responsibility

I was responsible for the safety of crew - lives of people onboard

I was responsible for the ship and its cargo worth millions of dollars

I could issue birth and death certificates

I could even conduct marriages and issue marriage certificates ( not that I ever did ???? )

A single signature on a cargo document would enable movement of money through letter of credits across international trade channels

But more importantly, the role came with a high degree of accountability

I was accountable for every action, every decision being made on the ship, whether made by me or one of my crew members

Even in extreme situations when I would call up my head office for advice, I also got a disclaimer: “Captain, ultimately it’s your call”

The organizational structure onboard was hierarchical, typical command and control 

My crew was my team, but not necessarily my friends

As Captain, I was on my own

So I know that leadership can be lonely.

Very lonely…..

As a leader, you may not be alone. You will have teams around you

But you could still be lonely

You can’t deny it. It’s a fact

It comes with the job

Leadership and loneliness are synonymous to some extent

It’s like a gift and a burden at the same time

Infact, now more than ever, we are seeing the impact of loneliness on leaders across industries as they struggle to keep their businesses afloat, keep their teams engaged and motivated and manage client expectations.

The key is NOT to try and fix loneliness by forcing into social relationships

I recommend 3 specific steps

Step 1 – Awareness

The first step is to be aware of it

Acknowledge it

Don’t ignore it. Don’t deny it

Beyond the façade of a strong leader, you are ultimately human

You also have feelings and emotions, you also struggle and feel overwhelmed at times

Also be aware how this could be unconsciously impacting other areas of your life - stress, anxiety, health, relationships

Step 2 - Reflection

Use loneliness as your guide occasionally for introspection, for reflection

This is important as with time and experience, you end up developing a pattern of thinking and mindset

And the more senior you become, the less people around you will challenge you

They will accept more from you and you will have more people saying “Yes” around you

In such circumstances, self-reflection can be a power tool to learn and grow

And loneliness can aid in self-reflection

Step 3 – Empty Your Cup

Find a confidant with whom you can share and discuss from time to time

This could be a mentor, a coach, your partner, a close friend…someone you can talk to openly without any fear of judgement

This is really important as the higher you rise, the more difficult it becomes for you to open up to people around you

You tend to keep things to yourself, which obviously pile up over time

Hence, the need to empty your cup

A confidant will also help you in step 2 above ( reflection ) – challenge your thinking from time to time

I have been there before so I know how lonely it can get at the top

Worth a discussion ?

PS : Whenever you are ready to push yourself outside your comfort zone and create new possibilities in life, 

you can book a short exploratory call here ( Book Your Call )

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