Despite the fact that many contemporary leadership environments now have become a flat leadership structure, millennial open-office collaborative affair, the essence of leadership is still the same.
The buck stops with somebody. When the hard decisions need to be made, when the responsibility for everything needs to be taken, when taking the risks at the highest level is required and when things get tough for most leaders, there is generally nobody else around but the leader carrying the weight of it all on their shoulders.
This is especially true in smaller operations in real estate where you are wearing all the hats, trying to keep the cogs turning and lead at the same time. The leader is the one who takes it home and has the constant worry and anxiety. The leader is the one who has most of the pressure and expectation on them, and it is the leader who finds loneliness and isolation become the only confidant they have, which then can impact performance in a big way.
A Harvard Business Review article reported that 50 per cent of CEOs say they experience feelings of loneliness in their role, with 61 per cent of this group saying it hinders performance. It was worse for first-time CEOs who experienced loneliness in their role; 70 per cent said that the feelings negatively affected their performance.
“As leaders we need to lead by example and start showing some vulnerability” – Nathan Casserly, Ouwens Casserly Real Estate.
So why is it lonely at the top, and why do leaders isolate themselves?
Male leaders, in particular, typically do not express their feelings or seek help for their problems, whether mental, emotional, physical or for business issues – and therein lies the issue. They’re expected to toughen up, not show weakness, push on through pain and not be vulnerable. Big boys don’t cry.
Be aware when you start to isolate yourself or get feelings of loneliness.
However, these leaders are burning out more than ever, suffering health and relationship issues and, in some cases, dying needlessly. It is tragic we continue the narratives and stereotypes of manhood in our society that almost shame men into keeping quiet if something is wrong.
“People don’t have conversations around burnout, anxiety and depression because they, particularly men, think it makes them look weak.” – Leanne Pilkington, CEO Laing + Simmons, NSW; President, REINSW.
Men aren’t taught how to express themselves, so they don’t actually know how to. Instead, they may self-harm or self-medicate in many ways rather than reach out for help. This impacts health, work, families and relationships as it’s easier to hit the drink, throw yourself into overwork, remaining unhealthy or suffering in isolation until, tragically, something gives.
6 Ways to Beat Loneliness at the Top
- Be aware when you start to isolate yourself or get feelings of loneliness.
- Create a personal board of people you trust and can be open and honest with, and reach out about how you are coping personally.
- Find a mentor or coach you can bounce business issues off in a professional and confidential manner.
- Join a local business owners’ group or professional network of leaders who you can relate to and who are going through similar things.
- Manage your stress, your health and your mental game.
- Delegate and empower others in your organisation to carry the load.