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How to Overcome Loneliness and Lead with Love

We were barely 5 minutes into a Zoom coaching session.

He recounted his frustrations of his team not being innovative, thinking critically, taking initiative. His lack of confidence in their capacity and competence.

He was the solution master; made many of the decisions. He believed the buck stopped and started with him. The division was performing better than ever, but…

I’d heard his story before.

I interjected when he took a breath. “I’m wondering what love might have to do with all this.”

Silence. Beautiful Silence.

What’s Love Got to Do with It?

Yes, love – a word rarely associated with boardrooms and bottom lines, but a powerful force that can transform the landscape of leadership.

Think of a leader you admire.

It is likely you can easily describe what they love.

While great leaders desire great results, they always love people.

They show care and concern for their team, stakeholders and customers.

“People love to see leaders who love people” – Dan Rockwell, The Leadership Freak

Wait a moment!

Ken, this sounds way too cuddly and nice. I can’t ignore the tough challenges and real issues in my life. I’m mad, frustrated, and must make hard choices.

Sometimes you have to look deeper to see the love you have.

Here are some signs that point the way to love:

  • Anger and frustration mean you care about yourself, another, or achieving an objective. Look deeper to see the source of the anger and frustration. It could be driven by fear of a consequence or by a desire to create a better world for yourself and the people you care about.
  • Sadness means you lost someone or something you care about.
  • Even anxiety, the feeling that something may harm us (but we aren’t sure what it is) has roots in love. Love is present when we cherish a person just as they are. The possibility of a harmful event threatens that love.

And then there’s loneliness.

Leadership and Loneliness

Over the years, many leaders have shared this with me:

“I never anticipated the loneliness that comes with leadership. My decisions affect the livelihoods of others. This weighs heavily on me, and the burden is often mine alone.”

Leaders bear great responsibilities and emotional burdens.

Navigating dilemmas where there are no clear right or wrong answers requires resilience and wisdom that few possess.

Leadership can be lonely, but it doesn’t have to be isolating. – Ken Roseboom

Loneliness in Leadership is the Absence of Connection.

The etymological root of the emotion of loneliness is “solitary, solo, from lone + -ly

Imagine that!

The more we listen to the logic of emotions the richer our lives become.

My teacher for emotions centered coaching, Dan Newby, says “Emotions have logic.”

Here is the logic of “loneliness”.

  • What we are thinking or saying: “I’m alone and something is missing.”
  • Our impulse for action: To seek out others for company.
  • The purpose: Loneliness urges us to seek out others to complete our sense of self.

As a leader, it’s crucial to acknowledge this feeling without succumbing to it.

Loneliness is a signal, a call to introspection, not an inevitable companion.

Reducing loneliness and finding more love require the same action: creating more and deeper connections.

We reduce feelings of loneliness when we become more connected to ourselves and the humans in our lives.

Here are some ways to do that.

Develop a practice of self-reflection

Masterful leaders make time for self-reflection. They take time to know themselves. They consciously connect to their values, their actions, their emotions, and their thoughts.

They reflect on how they observe themselves being in the world. What patterns of action, thought, and feeling repeat frequently? What triggers for these patterns? Do they help you get what you want or are they barriers to you and your team’s success?

What is emerging or needs to emerge in the future? Leaders reflect on how they can create the future for themselves and their organization. What do they want? What is the best way to get what they want?

How can you lead better and become less lonely in a loving way?

Develop a practice of self-compassion.

“When the oxygen masks drop, put yours on first before assisting others.”

Self -reflection can be tough. We demand so much of ourselves. Self-compassion is required. Indeed, self-compassion is required as much as “grit” for cultivating resiliency.

Kristen Neff writes “Through self-compassion we become our inner ally instead of an inner enemy.” The three elements of self-compassion are self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness.

Self-compassion can be thought of as treating ourselves as we would a dear friend.

A self-compassion practice comforts, soothes and validates us; and we are being self-compassionate when we protect, provide for, and motivate ourselves to act in accordance with our values and best interests.

What advice would you give a dear friend if they were in your situation? How would you treat them?

Build Genuine Connections

Deeper connection goes beyond being transactional. We feel connected when we See, Hear, Understand, Value, and Appreciate each other. The acronym for this is SHUVA™ as described by Patty Beach in her TED talk.

Weaving SHUVA™ into your conversations will develop your empathy muscle. Trust and a sense of belonging, inclusion, will develop.

There is a catch. You will need to reciprocate with sharing what is meaningful to you. Revealing your authentic self will engender empathy from others. This vulnerability will not be seen as weakness, you will be seen as courageous and approachable.

Through this mutual sharing you will be creating loyal allies in your team members, peers, customers, and bosses.

A few of these allies will become your “trusted truth tellers”. Your inner circle of confidants who will tell you exactly what they see in you with your best interest in their heart.

What to do next? Pick 6-10 people for building deeper connections.

SHUVA the Shinola out of them.

Spend time in deeper conversation about values and solutions to issues.

Ask for and provide advice.

Observe what happens to these relationships.

“The two greatest forces in the world are love and fear. Choose love.” – Ken Roseboom

Love is open-hearted. Fear forces compliance.

Love allows for trust, collaboration, and curiosity.

Very deep listening is not possible without love.

Love should be easy, but it’s not.

Love requires vulnerability, risk, and courage.

When we love we are hopeful.

When we have love, faith is possible.

Ready to Create and Achieve Your New Vision?

The path of leadership can certainly feel lonesome, but it doesn’t have to be.

By reaching out and revealing your authentic self to others, you magnify perspectives, insight, and connections to rely upon.

My door is always open to leaders who want to speak openly about the responsibilities they carry. You don’t need to walk this path alone when a trusted thinking partner can provide grounding wisdom.

Book a call to chat today: Book a Call with Coach Ken

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Ken Roseboom

Ken Roseboom is the President of Thinking Partners. He partners with leaders to increase impact, create aligned teams, and deliver better results. He leverages the Alignment process, assessment tools, expert coaching, and years of front line leadership experience to support his clients.