3 Signs You are a Lonely Leader

My friend and co-worker Jake Dudley has a passion to rid the world of Lonely Leaders. I connect with Jake’s passion because I’ve been one.  Lonely leadership is miserable. I’ve heard John Maxwell say that leadership shouldn’t ever be lonely because leaders take people with them. While I agree with this, there are times when you have co-workers, clients, and vendors around you but you are still lonely. Why is this the case?

Here is what the smart people of Wikipedia state,

“Loneliness is a complex and usually unpleasant emotional response to isolation or lack of companionship. Loneliness typically includes anxious feelings about a lack of connectedness or communality with other beings, both in the present and extending into the future. As such, loneliness can be felt even when surrounded by other people.

Research has shown that loneliness is widely prevalent throughout society among people in marriages, relationships, families and successful careers.  Loneliness has also been described as social pain — a psychological mechanism meant to alert an individual of isolation and motivate him/her to seek social connections.

Wow. This is real people. Loneliness leads to an emotional response. This is the factor I want to drill down into.

I’m writing this out of the personal pain of having been a lonely leader and a desire to help rid the world of this problem.  If you read this article and feel like you are not lonely, your job is to spot leaders in your circle who are and help them.  Nobody really talks about this because it seems mushy and emotional but the consequences of lonely leaders are felt everyday through shattered marriages, disgruntle children, employees who hate their boss and people to blow their brains out.

Here are 3 signs that you are a lonely leader:

1. You are over connected online

I’ve done this and still struggle with this.  Being connected online is a good thing but being over connected is a sign of loneliness. Social media is neutral but how we use it isn’t.  We can use social media as a medicine for our pain.

I know I’m lonely when I’m not able to disconnect from the online world and connect deeply in the real world.  

How do you know if you are over connected?  Ask your spouse, children, or friends for an honest opinion.  If everything has to be instagramed or tweeted, you have an issue.  Again, I’m the chief of sinners on this.

Last night, I knew I would be tempted to take pictures of everything at my daughter’s open house so I left my phone at home for a few hours.  Do not think I’m against social media… I’m not.

Just be careful because the online world will suck you in, isolate you emotionally and reek havoc on your real life.

2. You are over busy

Lonely leaders never stop.  If we stop, we have to deal with the feeling of being alone.  We blame our busyness on work, kids sports, church activity and a host of other things.  We say, “this is the way it is.”  Being chronically busy is a choice not a fate.  We rarely connect the dots to WHY we are so busy, we just do it.  Culture demands we be this way so we go along with the flow.

The result is we become overweight, out of shape, fatigued, or self-medicated.  Exhaustion leads to deeper isolation and that deep isolation is where leaders make life altering bad decisions.

Busyness leads us to ultimately lose everything we were busy for.  My kids don’t need a busy life, they need a present father.  My wife doesn’t need a busy businessman, she needs a best friend and lover.  Our team doesn’t need a busy CEO, they need a life giving leader.

3. You are over driven

When I see over the top achievers, I’m scared to death for them.  When someone tells me how fast their organization is growing, I worry about them.  When I see seeming altruistic people that HAVE to be involved in solving all social issue, I’m alarmed.  When I see 25 year old entrepreneurs selling their tech companies for millions, I get concerned.

None of these things are bad things but I’ve seen the underbelly of indulging in success.  

I’ve never had anyone confess to me, “Casey, I’m addicted to success” until the addiction to success has ruined their lives in some way.  The sure sign that you are addicted to success is that you have relational breakdown happening with family, friends and co-workers.  Sure, you think everything is “okay” but the people around you don’t feel okay.  If you jump one start up to the next and one idea to the next without sustaining anything, success might be your god.

I am not against drivenness.  I am against drivenness that leads to loneliness.  I’m against placing the success of our companies, careers, & churches over our emotional well being.  Success will get you a nice crowd on the way up & you will be tricked into thinking you are “good”.  As the success leaves, they will too.  You can’t outrun your relational capital. Slow down and love the people around you well!

Take action.

If you aren’t a lonely leader, look for one and help them.  You might save their lives and everything they are working so hard for. Don’t assume your boss, clients, and customers are okay.