It’s Lonely At The Top

2021-10-05T10:23:43-07:00 December 2nd, 2016|Tags: , , , |

Weekly Impact is written for leaders by our former Executive Director, Garth Jestley, who has decades of experience in senior leadership roles in the financial services sector. Each week he will share insights on life, leadership and faith.

“It is strange to be known so universally and yet to be so lonely.” ~Albert Einstein

As a former business executive, I relate to the old adage “it’s lonely at the top.” This truth is nicely captured by Einstein’s musings (although, unlike Einstein, we cannot claim universal fame!).

As marketplace leaders progress upward during their careers, they often experience an increasing sense of loneliness. Sometimes it is a loneliness related to the weight of responsibility as expressed in “the buck stops here.” Sometimes it results from decisions that they make regarding their leadership style or that their followers make as a direct result of the leader’s positional authority, or both.

Successful leaders typically exude confidence in their decision-making capabilities. Some, fearful of undermining their authority by showing weakness, choose not to share personal doubts with their team. After all, leaders know the way forward, don’t they? This behaviour often produces feelings of isolation and loneliness.

This situation can be exacerbated by the conduct of employees who do not always give their leaders the information that would help them perform better in their role. Sometimes this behaviour is based upon a desire to please by agreeing with all the leader’s pronouncements, however far fetched! Sometimes it is based upon signals leaders send that communicate displeasure with opposing views.

The reality is that there are many variables outside the leader’s control. As a result, they can never have absolute confidence that their decisions are right. Bringing their team inside their “tent of imperfection” by being open to criticism and even conflict improves the quality of decision making as alternative views and additional information come into play. Expanding the tent also empowers the team.

The responsibility of leadership often produces feelings of isolation and loneliness.

While best business practices can help mitigate the problem of loneliness, they cannot eliminate the gnawing feeling that something is missing. As a follower of Jesus, I am never truly alone. Even when I have made mistakes or others oppose my views, I am greatly comforted by God’s presence. Sometimes His presence is more difficult to discern as the storms rage but I have never truly lost the sense that He is with me and for me since encountering Jesus in my thirties.

A couple of excerpts from the Bible reinforce my trust in His presence and His power to help when I feel alone.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? 2 My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.  (Psalm 121:1)

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”  (Hebrews 13:5)

How about you?  Do you know Jesus or do you just know about him?  I encourage you to engage with us.

Garth Jestley is a husband, father, grandfather, leader and business executive. Most importantly, he is a follower of Jesus Christ.