Leadership, Our Blog

What to Do If You’re a Lonely Leader – Four Steps

By Tasha M. Troy

As a college student, I always hated the group activities.  I didn’t understand the value of hearing different perspectives, and I thought my point of view and my way of understanding were the “right” way. I usually volunteered to be the notetaker in those groups so that I could filter the summary of our discussion back to the class.

Boy, I’ve come a long way from those days!

I first understood the power of collaboration while I was teaching in South Korea.  While teaching college-aged students, I began collaborating with another teacher who taught the same level.  Together we created engaging materials for our students.

Later, while working for the Samsung Human Resource Development Center, I started collaborating with a colleague who had complimentary strengths.  I was highly visual, and she was highly auditory. She was very creative, and I had a good sense of organization.  We made a great team!  And I was sold on the concept of collaboration.

I had to learn the same lesson working with my students.  In the first years of my career, when I was doing the “Lone Ranger” thing with lesson planning and preparation, I was also very directive in my classes, assuming I knew what the students wanted and needed.  However, as I began working with professionals instead of college students, that approach wasn’t so effective.  I had to learn to teach collaboratively.


How Can Lonely Leaders Change?

John Maxwell says, “If it’s lonely at the top, you’re not doing something right.” I have found this to be true in both working with students and working with other trainers and instructors.  Maybe you’re in a position where you have gotten ahead of your people and you realize you are at the lonely point of leadership.  John has some advice for “lonely leaders.”


The first piece of advice is to avoid positional thinking.

This was the first thing that I had to change in order to connect with my students, the people that I interact with on a regular basis. I had to stop seeing myself as the teacher and the person with the content. I had to see myself more as “we are in this together, we are all experts in one area or another.” We all have strengths and weaknesses, and together we can move forward farther than if we try to do it alone.


The second is to realize the downsides of success and failure.

This might sound strange – the downside of success?  However, one of the downsides of success is you may find yourself isolated or getting separated. When you are very successful, it’s easy to become egotistical, to start thinking that maybe you don’t need other people or that you can do it on your own, that you are self-sufficient. If we look back to truths about the top, no one got to the top alone.

One of the challenges of failure is to start seeing yourself as less, and that’s not necessarily the case either. If you’re trying to hide your failures, you and your team are going to lose the lessons that could be learned from that experience.


The third piece of advice is to understand that you are in the people business.

It doesn’t matter what company you work for, what industry you’re in, if you are a leader of people, you are in the people business. As an instructor, it’s little easier for me to see that because I’m in the people development business. But even if you’re on the accounting team, the accountants on your team need to know that you trust them, that you believe in them, that you recognize that they’re doing a good job, that you value the work that they do.


And finally, buy into the law of significance.

The law of significance comes from John’s book, The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork. This law states that one is too small a number to achieve greatness. If you have small dreams, small goals, maybe you can accomplish them by yourself. But the bigger the goal, the more people you need to come alongside and help you achieve that goal. Again, this is something I am finding true in my own life. Remember my seemingly small goal of living overseas, which I talked about in my last article?  There were several people who contributed to my achieving that goal.


Take It Deeper

As I wrap up, I want to challenge you to think about a couple of things.

Number 1: Are you better at the science or the art of leadership?

The science of leadership is casting vision and the technical skills of leadership. It’s getting things organized, keeping people on task, getting the assignments right, and accomplishing goals. That’s the science side.

But the art – how are you connecting with the people on your team or the people around you?  How much influence do you have?  How well do you listen?  These are more art than they are science.

Number 2:  How big is your dream?

If you have a small dream, you just need a few people around you to support you. If you have a big dream, you’re going to need to start connecting with people who are like-minded and taking them along on a journey with you.

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start.  If you would like to go deeper on this topic, I hold free exploratory coaching sessions each week.  You can register online at Troy Communicationsor email me to schedule an appointment at TMTroy@TroyCommunications.Net

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