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Leadership is often solitary


July 5, 2021

By Rowan Van Dyk

Leadership is often solitary

3 min

Leadership can often be a lonely profession which rarely offers an opportunity to connect with peers, to socialize outside of the work environment or to connect and even make friends with different people. Leaders tend to pour themselves completely into their work and mostly in isolation. It makes no difference whether you are leading yourself in a position of dedication towards your goals or leading others in a position of responsibility, leadership, subjectively at least, can be a very lonely profession.

Loneliness does not only refer to having a lack of social interaction with others but also refers very strongly to the quality of interaction with others. Leaders can feel lonely from not benefiting from an exchange of ideas and creative thinking that comes from having discussions with others who share and differ from their own views.

Like the captain of a ship the leader sets the course for others to follow and with that decision comes the accountability of every subsequent action that results from that decision and while responsibility can be delegated the accountability remains the sole burden of the leader.

In the gospel of Matthew chapter 14 verse 23 Jesus is alone in that “After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone.” (NLT) Jesus needed to consult with God regarding what had to be done and he had no-one in his team or organization that he could interact with on the same intellectual level. Leaders sometimes find themselves in the same position, and although it is a very good practice to consult God on major decisions you have as a leader, it does help if you had someone, a peer maybe, to discuss your concerns and ideas with.

Most employees or even group members have others in their organization that they can look to for a friendly ear to bend, honest feedback and even companionship in whatever form that might take. They can ask all the needed questions that they want without fear of judgment. They can ask how to go about getting things done, they can band together to face tough times and work through difficulties together. They can interact with each other more freely; whether that’s something as simple as sharing a joke in the office, fill their team objectives or plan a function.

Unfortunately, leaders don’t always have such luxuries, they generally have far fewer people that they can turn to in times of a crisis or when faced with a challenge that they are uncertain of how to best deal with it. No one else in the organization has to make the types of decisions that they have to make and no one else has to face the consequences of those decisions. It can certainly be difficult to confide in someone when you have responsibility over that person, and you can’t be seen as uncertain or hesitant to those who have responsibility or authority over you.

It can be awkward when leaders become too friendly with subordinates as it can be seen as inappropriate. A leader can only develop long term and sustainable growth when they have the trust of the people around them, when their authority, commitment and dedication remain unchallenged. Getting drunk or overly friendly with someone under your leadership compromises your authority. We all know that it can be healthy and valuable to occasionally socialize with others, as this can make you seem more approachable and even human, But there is a fine line that you will have to tread as the leader.

Many leaders, especially those that have similar businesses or share the same customer pool, may not want to seek advice from competitors. There are however some suggested remedies to this loneliness that could be mutually beneficial to all involved. Here are some suggestions to deal with this loneliness.



The chances of you knowing everything there is to know about leadership is going to be rather slim, and on top of that is it going to be rather difficult to find the right combination of being highly creative while leading others and being successful in reaching the end goal.

Mentors act as coaches, advisors, confidants and honest sound boards for your ideas. You’ll find loads of people across the planet that are more than willing to act as your business coach, life guru, leadership expert or whatever other title they might take, very eager to take your money for the service that they offer. While many of them are well worth the investment, many more of them are not. Find someone who you respect and whose expertise and knowledge you admire to act as your mentor.

Be aware that there is a distinct difference between mentoring and coaching. While mentorship is about individual growth of the mentee, coaching is about directed guidance towards a specific measurable outcome. Mentoring is about guiding you in possible ways to deal with the situation at hand while coaching is actually just telling or showing you what to do without any thought or input from your side. Both have their merits, but it is important to understand what you want to achieve and the type of person you’ll need to help you get there.

Mentors need to take a personal interest in you and your development. That means they’ll need to make themselves available regularly. They’ll offer their knowledge and insight to you and give their particular perspective.

Proper mentorship is a skill that is developed over time so don’t expect too much from a new mentor who is still finding their way but on the upside; you’ll learn together and that too can create a lasting bond that extends long after the mentor/mentee dynamic has ended. Employing the services of a coach, mentor or business guru can definitely help fill a social need and provide other benefits as well.


 Mastermind Groups

Masterminds are something I have gotten to know and appreciate in the last few years, I belong to several masterminds for professional speakers, online coaching and entrepreneurial masterminds as well.

It works quite simply in the form of a bunch of rather like-minded people meeting with each other on a regular basis or whatever is most practical. Masterminds can be in-person sessions, online sessions or even a blend of both. Mastermind groups share a singular view and common goal of what they want to achieve and deal with problems or share insights together. They lean on each other, give advice, share connections and do business with each other when it is appropriate to do so.

Masterminds are in fact a type of cross mentorship where you’ll have input from multiple sources. Mastermind groups usually aren’t very large and can be as small as two to three people. Be aware of groups that get too large as this can cause some of the group members to get lost between the back-and-forth exchange of the of the other members.

A mastermind group can offer many benefits for the members which could include:

·       Being part of an exclusive community. Joining a mastermind typically involves you being invited by the members or going through an application process. The other members need you just as much as you need them, so quality of experience and knowledge is crucial to all involved.

·       Business Advice. Once you are involved in a mastermind, that feeling of "being alone" while running your business is gone. The other members of the group turn into business advisors of sorts and vice versa.

·       Building Strategic Partnerships. You may find someone in the group that is a perfect fit to work on a project with you. Or you may be the perfect person to help another member as well. The groupworks together collaboratively, to achieve more together.

·       Networking. Joining a mastermind expands your network exponentially and rapidly. If you are in business, you know how important your network is. By joining a mastermind, you instantly add to your network and typically gain the networks of those in the group with you. It may also provide ways to help each other by promoting their services or skills to your respective networks.

·       Learning. Everyone in the mastermind is unique in skill, experience and connections. By interacting and sharing your challenges, it's almost certain that someone in your mastermind will have a solution for you and you may also be able to offer a solution, connection or tactic to help another in the group.

·       Creativity. Being in a mastermind will help you master your creative skills by influencing your thoughts, dreams and goals. It will help you think bigger and stretch beyond your boundaries when surrounded by amazing people doing amazing things.



As a leader, friendships are difficult but through having mentors and being part of mastermind groups, you could develop some friendship as a result. This has certainly been the case for me. Finding someone who is your friend in a completely different organization will help you keep your sanity in the most trying of circumstances.

The friends have a free exchange of ideas without worry of the other taking offence. You are allowed to have differing opinions. It’s the person you are allowed to be relaxed with, be yourself and all of that can feel very liberating.

There is a lot of cross-pollination between friendship and authentic leadership and if you dissected friendship to identify some requirements for it, these would most likely be what described it.

  • Friendship, like true leadership, involves selflessness and concern for the well-being of others. It may mean putting your team or your friends ahead of yourself, looking out for the other person, or acting in a way that benefits another. It comes down to bringing out the best in those you lead and befriend.
  • Both friendship and leadership are about being loyal. Allegiance and faithfulness call for us to be steadfast and dependable. Loyalty requires responsibility and commitment.
  • Like friendship, true leadership means having integrity, honesty and encouraging others to speak up and tell their truth. It means expecting leaders to be honest and forthright with their feedback and communication. When we communicate honestly, we are holding up a mirror to each other that makes for the best leadership and friendship.
  • In both friendship and true leadership mutual trust is crucial. Trust, in essence, means having confidence in each other, the faith that if anything goes wrong you     will be there for each other, and the certainty that no matter what you will have each other’s backs. Trust in leadership and friendship gives us someone to rely on.
  • True leadership, and friendship, is a give and take situation. It requires the practice of sharing and exchanging, knowing how to give and take with generosity. Both friendship and leadership require us to reach out when there needs to be a listening ear and to be open when there needs to be understanding—all with sympathy, empathy, compassion, warmth, and kindness.
  • Whether personal or professional, friendship and leadership rely on committing to communicate. If the other person is not continuously open to dialogue with a free exchange, then the friendship is not worth sustaining. Communication is the glue that holds friendships, and relationships in general, together.

In the words of the famous Dean Martin song, we understand that “Everybody needs somebody sometimes.”