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Pat Lencioni On CEO Loneliness

May 19, 2021 11:57 AM | Theresa Boyce (Administrator)

Leadership can be very lonely. It’s cliché, but it’s also true. For most CEOs, it comes down to having no real source of encouragement and appreciation for what they do, says bestselling author and Chief Executive columnist Patrick Lencioni. “What may be worse is that so many resort to doing what that old country music song says: looking for love in all the wrong places.”

That’s why so many CEOs end up in trouble, writes Lencioni. Looking for praise from assistants, subordinates, customers, consultants, spouses or their board—none of which is really going to help. “Even the most involved spouse can’t adequately understand the depth of a CEO’s accomplishments and challenges without being part of the day-to-day activities of work. At best, they can be a sounding board or a sympathetic ear.”

So, where should CEOs seek to escape loneliness? Lencioni’s contrarian answer will surprise many of you: your leadership team. “When CEOs build real, deep, vulnerability-based trust with team members and understand the different contexts of conversations they are having, they can get the support they need while maintaining the authority their role requires.

“And even if it presents occasional problems and challenges along the way, it’s a far better tightrope to walk than trying to earn the approval and consent of a board chair or a lone sympathetic employee.”

Importantly, the CEO Trust can be a fantastic resource to connect with peers and peer groups to propel each other ahead, and for a camaraderie to mitigate the loneliness. 

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