Why business leaders often feel lonely and isolated

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Insights into the common issues business leaders encounter

David Fuller

“Let’s go for coffee today,” he said. “I just need to get out of the office and talk to you where no one is going to overhear us!”

Our conversation over coffee was deep, and as we walked back, he told me that one of the reasons he retains me as his business coach is because he has no one else to talk to.

I wasn’t surprised. I’ve heard that often. The truth is that when we’re leaders and owners of companies, we often feel we have no one to talk to, and we struggle with feeling lonely. Here’s why:

The buck stops here

As leaders, we make tough decisions that affect our employees and feel that the buck stops with us. So, we often think we can’t share our struggles because no one has as much at stake as we do. We think we gain if our decisions result in profits, and we lose if they result in losses.


More advice on running your business

I remember in the early years of running my companies I felt I needed to hide the pain of the tough decisions of firing someone or deciding how to manage cash flow to ensure that employees got paid.

We can’t take it home

When I started one of my businesses, I was so excited after a thrilling day in the trenches that I came home enthusiastic to share my experiences.

But within a few short minutes, I could see the eyes glaze over in my audience around the table. At that moment, something clicked. I switched the conversation to what happened with them and could see everyone come back to life.

If you’re a business leader, you know what I’m talking about. Family and friends just don’t get it; they don’t understand the complexity of the problems and feel that they don’t have anything to offer in terms of advice.

The advice you do get often isn’t relevant, and listening to people “should” on you is frustrating.

We feel shame

If we’re having difficulties in our organization, we sometimes feel we can’t talk about the issues with our peers because we feel ashamed that we aren’t succeeding in our task.

Rarely do we talk about our failures: those bad hires, the lack of income, the struggle to make ends meet, the marketing that isn’t working, or the new product or service launch that went sideways.

We want to give the impression that everything is always going great when it isn’t always.

We don’t know the answer

Related to the shame of failure is the embarrassment when, as leaders, we don’t have the answer. Because we’re in the top seat, we think we need to know the answer to every question and the solution to every problem.

It takes big leaders to admit their weaknesses!

So it’s no surprise that, as leaders, we’re lonely. We’re bottling up our problems, and we often feel that we have no real way to share the weight of these issues.

All leaders are faced with similar challenges. However, not all leaders are lonely in their decisions.

Next: Three things you can do to reduce the loneliness you feel as a leader.

Dave Fuller is a Commercial and Business Realtor, award-winning business coach, and author.

For interview requests, click here.

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