Despite spending their days surrounded by people, with endless to-do lists and demands on their time, many leaders and business owners will at some point voice a feeling of loneliness at the top. For many, the lack of support and not having a sounding board to discuss ideas with feels very real. The feeling that everything rests on their shoulders and a sense that there is no-one there for them can often fuel these feelings of isolation.
In 2016, research from crisis support group Lifeline showed eight in 10 Australians think our society is becoming lonelier, while 60% often feel lonely. Carolyn Gregoire wrote in a 2016 Huffington Post article: “Our time has been called the ‘age of loneliness’.
It’s estimated that one in five Americans suffers from persistent loneliness, and while we’re more connected than ever before, social media may actually be exacerbating the problem.” And in the last month, in my own circles, I have been hearing from many leaders, entrepreneurs and executives about how lonely they too are feeling.
The reality is though that no-one is successful alone. If you want to be a leader with vision, you must be prepared to move from the lonely me space to embrace the we space.
Here are 5 steps to becoming a connected and collaborative leader.
Be willing to share credit where credit is due
The temptation to take all the glory for your team’s success can be overwhelming when you have led a project. But understanding that everybody needs to be given accolades, no matter how insignificant their part, is critical. This improves engagement and trust, and team members feel empowered and are more likely to give an even better performance on the next project.
Be brave enough to share your weaknesses
Too often in the workplace, we see admitting a lack of knowledge or understanding as admitting to failure. It is really a form of strength, because it shows others that we are willing to seek help and show vulnerability. This engenders trust, and encourages others in turn to admit to their weaknesses. The end result? If there is a problem on a task or project, an individual is far more likely to speak up sooner and avert major disaster.
Appreciate the value of the collective intelligence bank
It’s rapidly becoming apparent that skills are an increasingly valuable currency for both corporates and entrepreneurs alike. Collective intelligence, or thinking, acting and working within a truly engaged team environment, is the way to futureproof your business. We are smarter together. We are more agile together. Share skills, knowledge, and insight – teach each other something you previously had no knowledge of. It will stand you in good stead.
Stand up and speak up
Part of teamwork is the ability to change situations that are not acceptable. If you think an idea could be bettered, or that your workplace has unacceptable conditions for members of your team, then don’t just sit there. You have a responsibility as a leader to make decisions, to start change, and to be a part of the whole – and that involves shaking the tree at times. Collaboration rather than isolation can be uncomfortable in the short-term, but the long-term rewards benefit the team rather than the individual.
Don’t be afraid to network
Professional networks are essential to give support, encouragement and knowledge along the upward progression path. This isn’t the ‘have as many people as possible in your email list’ type of network, but like-minded thinkers who understand what you want to achieve and who you in turn want to support. It’s about building your own marketing machine, board of advisers and intelligence bank. Single-handed achievement is a myth – togetherness is the only thing that drives change and success.