Several times in my professional career I’ve heard peers state that it’s lonely being at the top of the organizational pyramid. My response is always the same: then you’re doing it wrong.
A leader (or manager) should never be lonely at the top of any organization so long as you’re NOT the only person in said organization. An effective leader should be consistently surrounded with human beings bearing ideas, suggestions, questions and opportunities to mentor. If this isn’t the case, the leader has likely created an atmosphere of indifference, apathy and stagnation. Is this scenario fixable? Absolutely. But first, a leader/manager must know what their role is within the organization and how to best utilize his or her strengths and weaknesses to get the job done.
For point of reference, let’s consider a manager as someone who oversees a process (and people) to completion and a leader as someone who utilizes the talents and motivations of a group to complete (or exceed) the requirements of a process. A manager manages the status quo as a priority and a leader uses the required standard as a starting line and learning process for the organization. For any of this to functionally happen, the organization needs the inherent buy-in from its team members (employees). How does a leader get this necessary buy-in? By creating an atmosphere where communication and trust is the priority. And by communication, I don’t mean relying solely on e-mail to convey messages and information.
A leader gets out from behind the desk and actually engages with the people or at a minimum, picks up a phone and has a conversation. Never underestimate the power and positive outcome to be had from face-to-face contact. Team members need to know to some degree that the boss is available, personable and ready to listen. All of the best ideas and vision statements that populate PowerPoint slides mean very little if the team feels as if they cannot engage the boss. A leader who spends all day talking with his boss and polishing said PowerPoint slides will surely miss the practical ideas, applications and lessons-learned garnered from being a conduit and beacon of team member communication.
Leadership is only lonely if you let the process, status quo and your own personal inhibitions, make it so.