“Lonely at the Top” Still a Fact of Life for CEOs and Business Owners

2 Minutes Read

According to a 2013 study from the Center for Leadership Development and Research at Stanford Graduate School of Business and the Miles Group, nearly two-thirds of the 200 CEOs in North America surveyed stated “they do not receive coaching or leadership advice from outside consultants or business coaches, and almost half of senior executives are not receiving any either.”

If this is a representative number—and there’s every reason to believe it is—there are a whole lot of entrepreneurs, CEOs and business owners who live every day feeling “lonely at the top.”

Admittedly, this can be hard for those other than business leaders to understand. From their viewpoint, these hard-driving CEOs and business owners are surrounded by people all day and they’re busy making decisions, giving orders, holding down the fort and so on. But what people fail to comprehend is the sense of isolation and loneliness that comes with the job—and how that can negatively impact the top figure’s influence and ability to lead.

A business leader who feels isolated can often be perceived as distant or aloof, which in turn affects their ability to connect and relate to others. This only complicates the already difficult process of effective leadership.

To avoid situations like this that can damage the company’s overall performance, business leaders should keep the following tips in mind:

Acknowledge the situation. There’s only so long you can go on denying those feelings of loneliness and isolation. Rather than mask those emotions, try to find a few moments every day to reflect upon and accept the complexity of your job, and consider what’s needed to overcome the sense of being all on your own.

Make yourself visible in the workplace. Another way to decrease the sense of loneliness is to be visible to your employees. Walk around. Strike up conversations. Get to understand the challenges and rewards of your front-line staff, particularly since they’re likely to have some great insights into what’s working and not working in the business. Employees greatly appreciate a little face-time with the boss and you’ll feel better as well.

Ask more questions, give less answers. Some business leaders fail to understand that by constantly offering their own opinions, they stifle the input of employees and senior executives. In these situations, it feels like they’re living in an “echo chamber,” where the only voice they ever hear is their own. Instead, when faced with an issue, try asking open-ended questions that solicit ideas and offer others the sense of empowerment needed to contribute a practical solution.

Find a support group. Like everyone else, business leaders need to be able to connect with others on an intimate, trusting level. The best people to connect with are those in a position similar to yours. A peer advisory firm like Catapult Groups offers CEOs and business owners a sense of belonging. Regardless of industry, every member has experience as a high-performing business leader, so they can share the insights and lessons they’ve learned—and help each other overcome that “lonely at the top” feeling that’s been nagging at them.

Isolation can breed feelings of insecurity and lowered self-esteem. No business leader can operate effectively when hampered by these emotions. Yes, leading a business can be lonely at times. Fortunately, leaders have tools and resources to overcome such feelings and keep moving their business forward.

We invite you to join other entrepreneurs, CEOs, and senior-level executives in a confidential group setting where you’ll be challenged and rewarded like never before in your professional life. Learn more about becoming a Catapult Group member today.

Brad Mishlove