Being an effective leader, many times, means being alone. It’s a harsh truth that resonates with many of those steering companies into the future as dedicated CEOs. But for those just starting their careers, it’s a bizarre concept. But what seems odd is true: The higher up the career ladder one climbs, the more likely they are to become isolated.
It’s quite difficult nurturing personal relationships the higher one ascends in a company: how can one keep workplace personal connections strong when one person reports to the other. There is too much subtext and tension to have a relationship as equals.
For those looking to lead, or drawn to leadership positions, it becomes about dealing with the eventual loneliness and how to be focused and prepare now for this potential career eventuality.
I just finished reading the book Loneliness of Leadership by AETHOS Consulting Group’s CEO Keith Kefgen and Managing Director Dr. James Houran, PhD. I read it to learn about, and better understand, this 'loneliness' phenomenon. They illustrate their points through examples of bending the isolating experience into career success.
The book is the result of an unprecedented three-year leadership development study of lodging, gaming and restaurant CEOs and entrepreneurs. It also includes incredible insight from industry icons, such as Mike Leven, Jonathan Tisch and Hamish Dodds.
“There is a darker side of leadership and responsibilities,” Kefgen told me. Not in a scary, it’s all over for your career way, but as a means to understanding what future leaders should expect with a career path focused on attaining a top leadership slot.
The book highlights many of the challenges needed to overcome to become a great leader, and provides a framework in which readers can find a more peaceful ascent to the top.
Here are some of the top takeaways:
1. Not Everyone is Right for Leadership
“What we have seen promulgated in self-help books is that anyone can be the boss. Not everyone is built to be a leader because it takes more than self-help and a positive outlook to be a leader of other people,” wrote Kefgen. “A lot of leadership is about communication and persuasion and you don’t learn that in an MBA program or undergrad. Even communications majors have a difficult time leading and communicating to persuade others around common cause.”
2. Effective Leadership Serves Others
“You have to have a strong ego and must be charismatic and persuasive, as well as a good speaker, but ultimately the best leaders - the ones that last - truly serve others and not themselves and their own personal mission,” wrote Kefgen. “That’s in stark contrast to the celebrity CEOs you see on TV that appear to be larger than life.”
3. Leadership is Like Making Music
“Leaders have a shelf life. Leaders have an expiration date and they seem to follow a path with mathematical predictability like stock market crashes and avalanches,” wrote Houran.
I have found this true with both leaders and music. To me, the average CEO is massively successful for about a decade, which seems to be the same for most musical acts. It’s a temporary window of creatively that allows for more success.
“The overall pattern looks like music. They seem to have a shelf life where they are the most effective and that can depend on mix of team, the specific challenge, or the times they are in. Plus, if you are great in one arena, you are not guaranteed to be great in another,” Houran adds.
4. Leaders are a Prism
“Great leaders are the original social network, they have the gift to be a catalyst to bring talent and expertise together to attain a single goal. They’re like a prism focusing all energy."
Houran writes that great leaders have the indelible skill of pulling together talent and expertise in such a way that focuses the group’s energy to be more than they could attain separately. It’s about bringing out the best in people and challenging them to achieve things they could not have without that leader.
Learn more about the book here.
Overall, the road to leadership is a challenging one. What I am curious about are what are your success tips? What have you done to achieve that could be of use to others? Let me know at [email protected] or via Twitter and Instagram @TravelingGlenn.
Glenn Haussman is editor-at-large for HOTEL MANAGEMENT. His views expressed are not necessarily those of HOTEL MANAGEMENT, its parent company Questex Media Group, and/or its subsidiaries.