The Loneliness of Leadership

2251717957_216880f5b0_mIt was the late Dorothy Day who titled her autobiography "The Long Loneliness".  She died in 1980 and the book was published posthumously in 1996, a compilation of her many writings.  What was she hinting at in her title and how could such a holy woman of God discuss such a shadowy topic like loneliness?  I've asked these questions for a few years and now add my own wrinkle to loneliness: leadership.

Leadership is lonely not because its particularly difficult but because it's isolated by nature. A great leader will recognize this and cultivate teams around him/her to compensate.  The team exists because it can do far more than one person could but the team also exists to get more out of the leader.  And to combat his loneliness.  Sure, many people can encourage the leader but it ultimately takes another leader (often outside of the organization) to practice empathy and deeply understand.

I recently reviewed Keith Ferrazzi's latest book, Who's Got Your Back and wasn't too crazy about it.  That is until I started in my new role at work.  I've reflected since then on the importance of what Ferrazzi calls "lifelines".  These are key relationships that can keep a leader on track and challenge him to be more in life.  Maybe Ferrazzi is on to something after all...

Right now, my lifelines consist of the following:

  • A former union president who mentored me for two years

  • A retired gentleman who is an author and expert at group dynamics

  • A school president who is at the top of his game

  • A friend who is out of work and discerning God's next steps for his life

I've spent a lot of time speaking with each of these lifelines over the past few months.  Each gives a different perspective and adds direction to my life.  Maybe- through lifelines- leadership doesn't have to be quite so lonely.