The Disconnected Senior Leader

It’s heartbreaking to see that more and more senior business leaders are feeling a bit lost and alone these days. These folks are leading their companies and when they are hurting, so are the organizations that they serve.

The role itself places these senior leaders at the top of a hierarchy, creating a physical and psychological distance between them and the rest of the organization.1 And it’s not always easy for them to drop in and chat with everyone, even though those casual talks often give them brief moments of joy during their stressful day.

The transition to virtual workplaces, accelerated by global events like the COVID-19 pandemic, has made it very challenging for senior leaders to develop authentic connections with their colleagues. A study found that virtual communication, while efficient, often lacks the depth and richness of in-person interactions, leading to feelings of detachment.2

This sense of isolation can have severe implications. A disconnected leader may find it challenging to gauge the pulse of the organization, leading to decisions that might be misaligned with the needs and aspirations of their teams.3 Feelings of disconnection can also manifest as decreased empathy, potentially eroding trust and morale within the organization.4

But what about the senior leaders themselves? What about their mental and physical health? Feelings of loneliness have been linked to multiple health issues, including cardiovascular diseases and decreased cognitive functioning.5 A disconnected and potentially unhealthy leader is not in the best position to guide an organization to success.

We would like to think that these feelings of loneliness stop at the office, but they also follow the senior leader back to their homes. Less conversation at the dinner table. Deciding to stay in and binge-watch a streaming service rather than spending quality time with the family. Addictions of all kinds.

I have seen this first-hand, and this is why I decided to focus my practice on senior leaders. I am well aware of the stress and negative emotions they endure on a daily basis and the sacrifices they made to get to where they are. As an outsider looking in, I can appreciate that each situation is different and that there are no easy solutions.

I help by meeting them where they are emotionally and partnering with them to move them to a better state of mind. Once they get there, many possibilities open up. We live in a world of 8 billion people, and we meet new people each and every day. Nobody deserves to be lonely, our leaders least of all.

  1. Czarniawska, B. (2017). A theory of organizing. Edward Elgar Publishing.
  2. Wiesenfeld, B. M., Raghuram, S., & Garud, R. (2001). Organizational identification among virtual workers: The role of need for affiliation and perceived work-based social support. Journal of Management, 27(2), 213-229.
  3. Hinds, P. J., & Mortensen, M. (2005). Understanding conflict in geographically distributed teams: The moderating effects of shared identity, shared context, and spontaneous communication. Organization Science, 16(3), 290-307.
  4. Zak, P. J. (2017). The neuroscience of trust. Harvard Business Review, 95(1), 84-90.
  5. Hawkley, L. C., & Cacioppo, J. T. (2010). Loneliness matters: A theoretical and empirical review of consequences and mechanisms. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 40(2), 218-227.