Updated: Mar 6, 2019
We have the privilege of providing coaching to a host of talented executives and emerging leaders. We see people excited, proud and quite frankly scared to death. The first executive appointment often feels like a monumental achievement, the culmination of many, many years of hard work and education and a willingness to go above and beyond. People are often attached to the status of these positions – and for the record we are not saying that is necessarily a bad thing – and many report feeling like they ‘have arrived’.
However, the honeymoon is often shortly lived. The reality of executive positions is that you will have more responsibility than you have ever had before, a larger workload, less time to make decisions and a multitude of people dependent on you making the right decision. The stress is profound, and catches many unawares.
However, what seems to often be confessed in muted whispers, with downward glances – as though a shameful secret – is how isolated people often feel in these roles. And the harsh reality is that this is not something that abates with time or continued progression. It is indeed lonely at the top.
Relationships will often start to change, particularly with people who used to be colleagues and are now subordinates. The interaction with other executives can be quite competitive (depending on the company of course) and finding true peers and colleagues can be tough.
This isolation has huge ramifications, particularly in relation to the mental health of these individuals at the top. Imagine the pressure of making a decision that could result in you losing your house. Imagine having to tell your spouse that because of something you did or didn’t do today the future you planned is gone. Imagine feeling the weight of 200 people’s mortgages as you make every decision. And imagine having no one to talk to about it who will understand, or someone you feel will not judge you. The stress is profound and not easy to cope with.
We believe that there is a need for a stronger sense of community among executives, senior management, business owners and Boards. These people need support, someone to talk to and a group of peers to interact freely with. Social connection is a fundamental human need, one that when fulfilled actually makes us more effective in what we do. The stress of these senior roles with no support or community is not sustainable, and in my view is contributing to the high rate of burn out we are seeing in very young people.
And for clarity we are not talking about a membership body, a networking group or other form of social club. The need is for a safe and confidential environment where people can express their challenges and concerns and find support. There can be no trying to impress others, trying to sell or trying to find your next role. The community exists for the support of its’ members only, because together we are so much more than the sum of our parts.