Thinking Out Loud

Do You Suffer From Leadership Isolation?

If you are at the top of the organizational ladder, there’s a big risk of isolation. Even if you create more of a horizontal organizational chart, you’re still in the buck-stops-here category. No one else has the full weight or responsibility for certain decisions and functions, although good leaders do know how to share power, responsibility and accountability. 

Learning how to best work with the isolation factor requires self-awareness—knowing what you’re good at and what you need help with. It also requires humility, recognizing that being the leader doesn’t make you smarter or better than anyone else. You may be smarter in certain ways, but there are always people more capable in other ways.

Strong leaders ask for help when they need it and don’t lose power when they do. Power here is a tricky word. Webster defines power as the ability to do. The power to do…what? The power to act, to enact, to move forward to do something. That something comes from decisions made by the leader after consulting with others—ideally it is a true collaboration drawn from the best thinking and work of everyone involved.

If you see the organization as a vehicle for bringing all your ideas to fruition, you will not get the best work of everyone involved. This doesn’t mean that others will shirk or undermine you but that they will not use their full horsepower for a genuine contribution if they are not invested in the outcome. This is human nature.

Some leaders find it hard to acknowledge their challenges for fear of being seen as weak, open to being taken advantage of. These fears are usually unfounded but understandable since opening up your weaknesses makes you feel vulnerable. But vulnerability is human and something that everyone can identify with.

Sharing power, responsibility, and accountability mitigates the isolation of the leader. It also helps to create a more engaged and harmonious workforce because others are being trusted, respected, and feel genuinely needed. Under those circumstances, we all will become more involved, be more creative, and have more fun. The power and cohesion of the group will also neutralize those positioning themselves to try to take advantage of the leader.

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