The thing about being a leader is that you are often illuminating or forging a path where one is not clear or perhaps does not even exist. You’ve got to be at least one step ahead of everyone else – reminding them of the ultimate goal, and clarifying the steps along the path.
But let’s face it … that is a lonely task.
Leadership … is lonely.
And it’s important to accept this because as social creatures, being alone is not a comfortable place to be. But to make strides towards a vision, to lead the way for others … you have to be willing to stand up, and to stand out.
Even in a leadership team there is often one person who is clearly the primary on a particular goal. It could be the finance person who has a clear perspective on where the company needs to be financially in one year to achieve the three-year strategy. It could be the family member who is crystal clear on what family matters need to be resolved to ensure harmony. And so if you are that person – the person who clearly sees what needs to be done and needs to bring others along the path … you’ve got to be prepared to be for the loneliness of leadership.
Leaders, almost by definition, have no company at the start. They’ve got to work at building colleagues, teams, peers and followers around a vision. And then even when they’ve done that, they often need to keep stretching to ensure that the vision expands before the team and ensure the path is at least sketched out. That’s why, almost by it’s very nature, leaders will be lonely people.
Here’s the thing though.
As much as we think of loneliness as being sad, it does not have to be. So while you may be alone, you do not have to be lonely.
The danger in feeling lonely as a leader is that you stop forging ahead … you stop being alone … you join the pack. And that serves no one, and it certainly does not serve the vision. So this is what we must guard against.
And how do we guard against it?
Seek company in the vision.
Get your enjoyment, your passion, your refueling, your refuge in what is going to be. It may take time to get there … and you may be alone at the moment but dreaming of what that vision realised will look and feel like … especially imagining how it feels like with those who made the journey with you … is one definite way to wash away those leadership blues.