The Loneliness That Comes With a New Leader Role
Work for a great company and great team, and you’ve just been promoted as a leader of that team – woo hoo! - or is it?? Leadership loneliness can really be crippling and energy-draining.
Those you felt were your “tribe” don’t stop at the coffee machine for a chat anymore – in fact, you find that things go “oh so quiet” (now you’re thinking of the singer Björk – if you weren’t, you are now!!).
You get a lot of people either nodding furiously at you with an element of sugar-infused glee or are scornfully looking at you as if you are across each other at a poker game determined not to let on to the other what cards you are REALLY holding.
(Remember a huge amount of the below are simply assumptions inside your head)
Fear – on both sides
Are you going to be a good – no, great – leader?
Are you up for the job?
Have you bitten off more than you can chew?
They are wondering if you are going to be a pain in the a*se now that you’ve become “one of them”.
Have they lost a friend?
Will they still be able to chat with you like before?
Will you pick on their insecurities because they confided in you about a work thing 6 months ago?
If ONLY they had the courage to put their hand up like you did. They could EASILY do what you do. They never really liked you anyway (whatever!). They HAVE to be jealous of you even if they’re not because they have to conform to have a quiet life at work and not seen to be “sucking up to the boss”.
Them and us
Ingrained expectations from the corporate hierarchy. It’s just not done. Leaders and workers CAN NOT associate in a human being manner(!). The secrets of the firm will be ‘leaked’ to the subordinates and then there will be anarchy because we must keep what we are really thinking and doing, away from those who come to work every day and believe us. ‘They’ wouldn’t understand the complexities of management.
How do you myth bust these old (and often not true) sentiments so that there is less opportunity for leadership loneliness to creep in?
Create a vision value template – to remind yourself of how you WANT to be as a leader. The “them and us” mentality is so worn out now, it really is like an old pair of shoes with holes in the soles – bin it! And I don’t just mean say you have an “open door policy" (that is laced with fakeness too… remove the door altogether!). Show the team that you ARE part of the group – that you all succeed together.
Remember what your leaders were like – take on board the good points, promise to leave out the not-so-good. Don’t become them – be YOU! Remind your team players that you are still you, you just have some extra responsibilities that you would still love their support on and that you still offer your support to them, like you have always done.
Be honest with your team – as a leader, vulnerability really will start with you. And it will be difficult to do in the beginning – because if it was easy, every leader would be doing it and potentially you would never have wanted to become a leader to "show them how it is done properly". Reminding your team that you are 'real' allows the opportunity for togetherness to grow and less space for isolation to fester.
Ask your team what they want from you and ask them how they can help you deliver that. Guess what? You are a human being first, then you are a leader. You are not a wizard(ess). You are not a mind reader. You are not a miracle worker – so stop (or don’t even start) trying to be. Be human. Learn from your team – that’s what all the best leaders are doing… learning from their people. Applaud them, not yourself – but be authentic about it.
Find an external “buddy” – someone that isn’t attached to the business that you can confide in. Whilst a friend can be great, consider someone who can professionally and actively support you: a mentor, consultant, or coach. Reach out.
Having a coach is not a sign of weakness. It is actually a sign of strength and self-care. Be one of those leaders. Talk out loud your worries, concerns, and thoughts in a safe space. It reduces the level of fuel that can spark feelings of loneliness.
And finally, seek to embed a positive psychological aspect in your psyche. You presenting in this way will naturally attract the same from others. This does not mean that you are eternally happy and skipping down the corridor every day! It does mean that when challenges are before you, you get to choose how to manage that in an inclusive and effective way and lead by example but not in a way that is just you… on your own… by yourself.
Of course, none of this is dead easy yet at the same time, it is simple. If you are ready to talk through what this might look like for you and your situation, then get in touch. Let’s chat.
You really don't need to be lost in your lonely thoughts about any of it.
© YMR Coaching & Development
Yvonne has qualifications in Coaching, Positive Psychology, and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and believes in continual personal development. She is currently based in the UK and also has life and work experience in Ireland, New Zealand and Australia. She helps with mindset wellbeing and change which includes significant relocations. She is contactable for client availability, public speaking events and media enquiries here: https://www.ymrcoaching.com/helpful-links