I've been a lonely leader since the very beginning, as a solopreneur and business owner for many years but even entrepreneurs and corporate leaders battle "LLS'' throughout their entire careers, at all levels. In fact, the higher you go, the more insulated and isolated you become.
This is often one of the major issues that puts the brakes on progress. The feeling of isolation kills positivity, motivation, creativity and eventually, the business.
What is LLS?
This is the term I coined for those moments of uncertainty, overwhelm and indecision when there is no one to lean on or share your concerns with.
Struggling to pay your team this month? Deal with it. Unruly employee causing havoc? Deal with it. Quarterly results below expectations? Deal with it. As the leader, it's all your responsibility at the end of the day, no one elses.
Repeat that every single day, month after month, year after year and you begin to get an idea of what LLS feels like. The pressure keeps on mounting.
How to spot LLS?
At its core, LLS is feeling as if you don't have or cannot go to anyone about your challenges or difficulties. You can't divulge your struggles as that would mean showing weakness and admitting to yourself you need support.
For me, it used to show up frequently in decision-making, and a lack of conviction. Second guessing myself and my vision for the business.
It would also come up as a lack of enthusiasm or enjoyment, at work and at home. Once LLS sets in, it doesn't just stay nicely in your office, it seeps into every corner of your world and begins to take over.
It can feel like floating through a black hole, without momentum or conviction, regardless whether the company is flailing or flying.
That’s right. LLS can occur even when things are going well, we’re just not paying attention to it, but it’s still right there, beneath the surface. You just as equally fail to celebrate the successes with anyone else.
“Vulnerability is our most accurate measure of courage.”
- Brené Brown
You might be thinking, “This is what management teams are for”, but it’s not the same. Ask any CEO, or business owner and if they open up to you, they will reveal how despite having a team to problem solve and find creative solutions, most leaders aren’t able to share most of what's on their mind.
There are a few ways to overcome and avoid this loneliness in business leadership. Some may suit you better than others. Some come with more or less risk. Some involve deep, personal work that not everyone is open to exploring. There is always a trade off.
Business Partner - A common solution for many enterprises. Someone to share responsibilities and divide and conquer. Very practical when things are going well but potentially catastrophic when hard times hit.
If you choose this option, make sure you have excellent communication and ensure you both know how to manage confrontation and conflict in a professional manner, with the business’ best interests over your own.
Vulnerability - If you’ve read any of Brené Brown’s work, you’ll know her research revolves around vulnerability in leadership. According to Brown, it takes courage to be vulnerable but on the other side of that vulnerability stand tremendous breakthroughs.
Brown regularly states the word ‘courage’ derives from the latin ‘cour’ which translates to ‘heart’. So what does leading with your heart look like? It’s about authenticity, being true to your, and the company’s, values and most importantly, having open and difficult conversations with team members. The latter is where many CEOs stumble: to create the space and environment for deep, honest, non-judgemental conversations.
Be vulnerable. Share and lighten the burden weighing you down. Turn that anxiety into productive, creative energy.
Thinking Partner - Can be considered a hybrid of the previous two suggestions. An external professional who brings a fresh perspective with no judgement. By having an “external business partner” of this nature, you immediately dissolve LLS and begin on the path of vulnerability.
This is an excellent solution for most founders and CEOs because a thinking partner isn’t necessarily connected to anyone else in the company. He or she is a professional who can be trusted with your most honest and even inappropriate thoughts and opinions.
In a Thinking Partner or Personal Advisor, you have someone who will challenge your perspective, ideas and projects, guiding you to make more impactful decisions.
You have three options to put an end to LLS for once and for all. Which will you choose?
Love, success, creation,
PS Survived more than 1000 days as a founder or business owner? When you are ready, let's explore how to make your business thrive in the next 1000, without sacrificing your personal life.