The Lonely Executive


“It’s lonely at the top,” a reoccurring theme for most executives making their way up the ranks. Just as, the higher you rise, the narrower the environment becomes; and while challenges arise at every level in an organization, it is at the executive level that isolation can become problematic.

Not only is an executive privy to highly confidential information, but once you have reached leadership status, the future of the organization as well as its overall success rests heavily upon your shoulders. With that in mind, it is of utmost importance that as an executive leader, you maintain discretion at all times, which limits the executive to only a select few of confidants whom they can discuss certain business matters with. Additionally, to prevent the perception of favoritism or unfairness, leaders will also try their best at avoiding close relationships with particular staff members. Many executives are reluctant to let others come too close for fear that their imperfections may be revealed or that they may appear weak or incompetent as well. While we all know that no one person is perfect, as a leader, people will still hold you to unrealistic standards and consequently a sense of isolation soon occurs.

As isolation increases, having a support system will prove advantageous to the executive’s ability to lead successfully.  As noted in my book, ‘Corner Office Rules,’ an executive leader can’t lead effectively without being surrounded by peoplenot just any people but the right people.  At some point, every leader needs an outlet to vent frustrations, share concerns, express fears, and admit doubts.

While it is essential to have an internal support system within the organization, it is on the other hand equally as important to have just as much support outside of the company also. The suggestions that follow below prove beneficial for an executive seeking an outlet away from the establishment:

Serve on a Board:  Board of Directors are typically made up of other seasoned, high-level executive leaders who can provide a safe haven to discuss matters that you may not be willing or able to share with someone from your organization.

Associations: Take advantage of networking and development opportunities found in professional and industry associations.

Community: Develop relationships with key influential individuals in the communities who can give you access to their networks and, in some cases, help you drive your business goals.

In summary, the title executive in itself inevitably forces many leaders into seclusion, but the best way to avoid isolation as an executive leader is to actively seek out and identify opportunities for engagement.