It’s lonely at the top: how CEOs can reduce their isolation

Being sheltered can compromise your decision-making and leadership prowess

Senior executives are given limited and filtered information about their operations, employees and customers. Photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Senior executives are given limited and filtered information about their operations, employees and customers. Photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

 

The loneliness that often comes with being a chief executive or company boss may seem like a small price to pay for the rewards, recognition and power that come with the job.

But being isolated at the top can compromise your decision-making and leadership effectiveness.

Senior executives tend to be shielded from organisational problems and data; they are given limited and filtered information about their operations, employees and customers. What can you do to reduce executive isolation?

1. Raise your antennae to the possibility that you’re experiencing it

Isolation is often hard to detect. Moving into a senior role is exhilarating and requires a huge expenditure of energy to get adjusted. While that’s happening, others may start effusively agreeing with your ideas or trying to anticipate your every need.

Are employees challenging your thinking or just saying what you want to hear?

2. Get out of the bubble

All senior leaders are surrounded by the physical or virtual trappings of the office, from the assistants who manage scheduling to the intensive calendar that leaves little time for reflection. To break through the isolation, you need to escape periodically.

3. Tell your senior team to push back when they disagree and to challenge your thinking

Make sure that you have team members who have the courage to speak up and can be critics. You need to have the strength of ego to let them challenge you and really listen to their ideas.

(Copyright Harvard Business Review 2017)