Leaders often tell us that one of the drawbacks to being in charge is that they feel lonely and isolated. Ironically, at the very time when leaders need colleagueship the most, they experience it the least. Some loneliness is self-imposed and some is not. Many leaders have difficulty reaching out to others with comparable levels of experience and savvy. Many feel a lack of safety in sharing personal challenges and frustrations with internal colleagues. They are concerned that exposing their own vulnerability may one day bite them in the back, even if what is said is “in confidence.” Yet, particularly in new positions of responsibility and authority, leaders are more effective and less stressed when they bounce ideas off of, see a different perspective, find an experienced guide with and in a trusted advisor.An effective prescription:
Having mentors both inside and outside the organization keeps leaders keeps leaders at the top of their game.
Inside the Organization. Many leaders engage in reverse mentoring, a proven way to pass ideas, expertise and experience up the corporate ladder. Employees with specific knowledge (workplace perceptions, generation difference, techno-savvy) become mentors and share their “know how” with senior leaders to bring them quickly up to speed.
Outside the Organization. The mentoring board of directors (BOD) model is a powerful tool for helping leaders overcome feelings of loneliness and isolation because it promotes interaction and feedback with multiple mentors. The BOD can meet together at regular intervals (in person or virtually) or be called upon individually as needed. Self-direction, careful mentor selection, clarity of goals and processes, and steadfastness are required to make it work.
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