By Donal Laverty, Consulting Partner

In Henry IV, William Shakespeare wrote: Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.

Studies show that over 70% of new CEOs report feelings of loneliness, although they don’t have exclusive rights to these emotions. Leaders, across all levels of all organisations, experience a sense of loneliness from time to time, especially those who have been recently promoted to management or leadership positions. This Mental Health Awareness Week, it is important to acknowledge that unchecked loneliness can have a negative health impact. New leaders must be equipped with the tools to recognise and address these feelings as soon as they emerge.

There is increasing evidence to suggest that at work, loneliness reduces task performance, limits creativity, and impairs other aspects of leadership functions such as reasoning and decision making. It is imperative, not only for our health but also for our work, that we address the loneliness epidemic.

The jury may be out on exactly how many of us are lonely at work, but the medical experts agree: feelings of isolation are not good for the people experiencing it. Social loneliness, which is felt when we do not have a confidante and are unable to get support from peers, colleagues, family, or friends, can lead to despair and possibly depression.

In some work environments, admitting to loneliness, isolation, and fear equates to weakness and many feel they can’t be weak in the top job. Others feel an internal conflict as an organisational leader with power, privilege, and perks and fear it contradictory to admit to feelings of isolation.

Solutions to such feelings include the building of a support network, where leaders can access an outlet to explore their feelings and to validate the worth of their choices. Joining a professional body can be an important step in this, meeting likeminded colleagues in the same position from other organisations allows leaders to share confidences and burdens with people who know what they’re going through. Finding ways to connect appropriately with your team members can also be key. Even as the leader, you can connect with your team members in ways that let them see you as an approachable leader.

Leaders themselves may think that loneliness is an unalterable condition they must endure. It may well be lonely at the top, as they say. But does leadership really have to be lonely? The short answer is no. Curing your loneliness often takes time and behavioural changes to prioritise mental and physical wellbeing. Recognising your loneliness is the first step – then you can put in place the right support systems and change your habits.

To discuss any aspect, get in touch with Donal Laverty E: T: 028 9032 3466