leading in isolation

EmPulse for Week of April 11, 2011

leading in isolation

Most of the leaders I know express the sentiment that it is quite lonely at the top. Though they are entrusted with the most critical of decisions, they feel isolated from both those who have decreed their directives and those who must implement them. They have few confidants. They have few trusted friends in the workplace, or in parallel endeavors. Sadly, the patterns of isolation they have established at work are brought home: they are evident in remoteness from family responsibilities, events, and relationships. Wives become work: children seem an additional demand on time and energy. There is no rest anywhere in sight. Somber introspection, or alcohol, or an obsession with sports, ensues. Or worse. [These descriptors are not as true of female leaders: they face quite a different set of issues.]

For some, this isolation can result in suicide. For most, it means a life of silent fears and covert alliances, calculated relationships and constant, constant secretiveness. It eats away at a person’s soul to the point of despair, death, and a forlornness that overshadows all other activities. These are truly the living dead of our society—the six-figure shells who are the corpses of our corporations, governmental committees, and churches.

We have killed ourselves.

How is a leader to break the bondage of such insidious isolation? My list—

1.      Try Trusting—yes, it is dangerous. You have been betrayed. Try again anyway. Choose your confidants carefully.

2.      Feed your Soul regularly—no one on earth is going to care about you. Start with that assumption. Then find resources (books, people, mountain retreats, ocean houses) that both provide you with a relief from the daily grind and refortifies the spiritual/emotional/psychic bolstering of your soul. NOT once a year! Monthly, even weekly for a while, if necessary. You are useless to others ‘till you do this.

3.      Be Yourself—the time for acting in the role of leadership is over. BE the man God made you to be—no more, no less. This is so freeing I cannot tell you what it has done for me! NO MORE GAMES!

4.      Set REALISTIC GOALS—do not set grandiose goals because they look, well, grandiose. People want realistic leaders who live in the real world. Board members want CEOs who will tell them the world is their oyster. They are dreaming. DO NOT lie to them; tell them to get real. The same goes for shareholders.

5.      Inspire People—these are not the best of days. Don’t count on them getting better any time soon. You want a team who know you are on their side. They will work their fingers to the bone—because they believe in you, not the job, not the company (or church), but you. Even Jesus dwelt among us.

6.      Lead from the Heart and the Head—our society needs leaders, not managers. What’s the axiom? Managers do things right. Leaders do the right things. ‘Nough said.

7.      Do NOT be afraid to admit you are Wrong: Do NOT be afraid to admit you are Right, either. FIGHT for what you believe in!

Leadership can be very, very lonely. Sometimes I feel like it is just me and God against the world. How naïvely stupid of me! God would never leave me out there alone. How ‘bout you!?!

Have a nice week.

Gary

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