Feeling Isolated as a Leader

Here are a few ways to tell if you’re dealing with chronic isolation as a result of your leadership position—and if so, how to combat those feelings.

Feeling Isolated as a Leader

As an executive, you’re used to navigating leadership challenges that other people may not understand. Sure, the corner office might offer prestige and power, but it can also be a place of isolation—leaving you wondering what the qualities of a good boss even are, and if you make the cut. 

As a leader, if you tend to feel like others just don’t “get” you, you’re not alone. In fact, having coached executives for the past 20 years, we’ve seen that isolation is one of the most common leadership challenges that they experience.

Here are a few ways to tell if you’re dealing with chronic isolation as a result of your leadership position—and if so, how to combat those feelings.  

Are you isolated?

Before we talk about ways to combat executive isolation, take a moment to reflect on these questions:

  • Is it difficult to find someone trustworthy to share your challenges with?
    Trust is essential, especially when sharing vulnerabilities or discussing sensitive issues. Do you find it challenging to confide in others without fear of judgment or betrayal?

  • Do you feel the need to do the job yourself in order to get it done right?
    Do you often feel like you're carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders? Are you hesitant to delegate tasks or seek assistance because you believe you're the only one capable of getting it right?

  • Do you see asking for help as a sign of weakness?
    Does the idea of admitting you need assistance feel uncomfortable or even shameful? Do you equate vulnerability with incompetence?

  • Does it seem like no one else is competent enough to get the work done?
    Have you ever felt like you're surrounded by incompetence? Do you struggle to trust others to execute tasks to your standards?

  • Do you feel mostly or wholly responsible for your company’s success?
    As the leader, do you feel an overwhelming sense of responsibility for the success or failure of your organization? Do you find it challenging to share the burden of decision-making?
  • Does nobody else really “get it”?
    Do you often feel misunderstood or like no one truly comprehends the complexities of your role and the pressures you face?

  • Are your contributions underappreciated?
    Despite your efforts and sacrifices, do you sometimes feel underappreciated or undervalued, both personally and professionally?

If you find yourself in agreement with any of these statements, it's likely that feelings of isolation are impacting your well-being and effectiveness as an executive. And that’s a problem—because personal struggles become leadership struggles if left unchecked.

So, how do you deal with feeling isolated? 

How to deal with executive isolation

1. Start with professional help

Whether it's a mentor, coach, or peer from another industry, having someone you can confide in is invaluable. Look for a peer who understands the unique challenges of your role and who you feel comfortable being vulnerable with.

It’s key that this person is OUTSIDE of your organization, too—unfortunately, turning to a coworker might lead to the kind of confirmation bias you’re hoping to avoid (many employees have a difficult time disputing “the boss”, and might end up agreeing with you despite their true feelings). 

2. Get comfortable with delegating

You may be accustomed to taking on everything yourself. Contrary to popular belief, however, doing it all yourself is less productive and more draining than delegating smartly. Delegating tasks not only lightens your workload, but also empowers your team members and fosters a sense of trust and collaboration. It’s a key executive skill you’ll need to develop if you want to reach the next level of professional development. 

3. Redefine what strength means

Asking for help isn't a sign of weakness; it's a sign of strength. Recognize that no one has all the answers and that seeking assistance when needed is a sign of humility and commitment to growth.

4. Bolster your team 

Surround yourself with talented individuals who share your vision and values. Invest in their development, provide clear expectations, and trust them to excel in their roles. This is easier said than done—which is why a professional like a coach or mentor can help.

5. Release yourself from “responsibility baggage”

While the decision may ultimately rest with you, don't shoulder the burden alone. Involve your team in the decision-making process, seek their input, and distribute responsibility accordingly. What’s more, don’t beat yourself up over ideas and plans that don’t work out. Sure, the buck stops with you—but it takes a village to run a company, and you’re not solely responsible.

6. Acknowledge your contributions

Take time to recognize and celebrate your achievements, both big and small. Don't wait for external validation; appreciate the impact of your efforts and the value you bring to your organization. 

Dealing with isolation? We’re here to help

Breaking free from executive isolation requires intentionality and effort, but the rewards—both personally and professionally—are worth it. And while it can be done alone, getting rid of feelings of isolation is a lot easier when done with a trusted professional. Get in touch with one of our coaches today for personalized guidance on how to improve your impact as an executive. 

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