Sarah Wright of the University of Canterbury in New Zealand and I discovered in a recent empirical study that the higher the position an individual occupies, the less they experience genuine friendships within the organization.
Let’s face it: employees just don’t want to hang out with the person who controls their livelihood on a Saturday night.
While professional distance can be frustrating for leaders as it reduces the connection they have with followers, it is often necessary in the leadership role. Unfortunately, this learned leadership behavior can lead to anxiety and loneliness.
Concerned about their words being used against them, many senior executives are unable to express their emotions and invariably keep themselves sheltered from self-disclosure.
In addition, many leaders face deep insecurities—including fears of being wrongfully judged, or being found a fraud—despite their impressive skills, qualifications, and operational success.
As a result, leaders often wear a mask at work that camouflages their more authentic self.
This mask can often manifest itself in the leader’s personal life, with many successful executives having trouble experiencing genuine intimacy or friendship anywhere in their lives.
One solution is for leaders to join groups of peers—i.e., other leaders—with whom they can share their war stories from the front line and connect without fear of reprisal.
Anthony Silard is the president of The Global Leadership Institute and the author of the Simon & Schuster book The Connection: Link Your Passion, Purpose, and Actions to Make a Difference in the World. To receive Smile, It's Monday every other week in your inbox and a free copy of Anthony's new audio CD, "The Surprising Source of Your Passion", enter your email here (1-step only).