Leaders: Feeling Isolated? Maybe You Dug the Moat

When I hear executives or entrepreneurs say they feel isolated, like standing on an island, I often ask how did you get there? Sometimes you may be the one who dug the moat providing the divide between you and everyone else.

A Story

I know a very successful executive who runs a thriving subsidiary enterprise that contributes about 30% of the parent company’s gross revenue. Yet this executive constantly complains about being isolated, undervalued, misunderstood, and neglected by peers. The peers will tell you this person is a pain to deal with. So who put whom on an island?

Isolation can be caused by your own behavior toward others. You may say you need help, but when help is given you find ways to undermine the effort. How silly is that? Or you may find ways to annoy others merely by being so self-effacing that you become the lone voice no one wants to hear.

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There is no doubt that being in charge can cause a natural loneliness, but you never have to be alone. When assistance is volunteered, find ways to accept the help. Sure, you can discuss the exact impact an outside source may have on your business, maybe even negotiate for something slightly different, but in the end, graciously accepting the help can ease the sense of loneliness.

Influence

One of the most valuable characteristics a leader must have is the ability to influence others; in positive ways. If you repel those around you, you are not being much of a leader. You might be an effective manager, but a leader? No.

Real leaders draw others in by inspiring a sense of purpose. The accomplishment of business or organizational goals becomes a secondary effect of good leadership. When dynamic leadership is working, no one feels stranded on an island, and certainly not YOU.

Sure, you may have to make tough decisions, taking hard stands on certain issues. However, if the people around you have bought into you first, then understanding the decision you made becomes easier for people to accept.

The Fix

If there is a moat, deep and wide around you, the ditch needs to get filled in. Start building bridges with others. Repair relationships with your peers and colleagues who could otherwise support you. Ask for candid feedback. When the answers start to come, don’t deflect! Embrace the input and adjust your approach.

I also knew about an executive who was ahead of his time in terms of writing out goals and objectives for himself. Yet he struggled with peer-to-peer relationships. He hired a coach. He was proud to show the coach his list of goals, the chief of which was impacting his team so he could become “the best boss ever”. The coach wisely observed “I don’t see any goals about your relationships with your peers. Why not be the best co-worker ever?”

In companies with two or more employees, the interaction with those around you can make or break the effectiveness of your unit and the company as a whole.

coaching call

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; 
It tolls for thee. 

~John Donne 1620

“No man is an island”. Why should you want to put yourself on one?