Overcoming Leadership Isolation and the Biases it Creates

If you’re like the thousands of leaders I know… you know it’s lonely at the top.

It’s true, whether the top is across a team, department or division of a company. If you lead, it gets lonely.

You lead because of what you know. Those around you need your clarity; they look to you for answers. Those who report to you need your critical perspective and approach.  

Those around you want to know what you know. But what they don’t know is how much you – don’t know. And that’s one of the many factors that create isolation.

Isolation is a condition. It sucks.

Isolation brings stress. And stress makes all of us stupid. No matter how smart we are.

Isolation destroys: Profit. Relationships. Life. Isolation lies at the heart of fatigue.

Isolation creates blind spots. Blind spots create biases.

Biases impact your leadership; Affect your decisions; Cause assumptions; Impair judgment; Limit your outcomes.

Isolation comes at a high cost. But no one recognizes it. No one talks about it. It’s too unpleasant.

Survey results from my work reveal:

  • Astonishingly 80 percent of respondents were only “Somewhat Aware” of their own blind spots
  • Only 13.3 percent of executives surveyed believed they were “Very Aware” of their blind spots
  • One-third admitted they were less aware of isolation than they thought
  • 60 percent of executives confessed to being “Very Emotionally Attached” to their outcomes
  • 66.6 percent of participants said their people were not as engaged as they should be

Our perception influences reality. We see who we are, not what is.

Here are some ways to overcome the biased thinking that comes from isolation;

  1. Encourage honest feedback.
  2. Create a culture of openness.
  3. Actively listen to what lies behind the statements and questions you’re getting.
  4. Ask more. Tell less.
  5. Observe more. React less.
  6. Breathe through your impatient need to jump in.
  7. See beyond yourself.
  8. Continually ask yourself, “What’s trying to happen here?
  9. Speak in neutral terms. Lose the words, “I,” and “You.”
  10. Objectify issues. Don’t personalize them
  11. Practice detachment from thinking and action.
  12. Resolve issues. Decrease dramas.
  13. Find an accountability partner who doesn’t rely on you for a paycheck.

Gain feedback, create climates of openness rather than fear, and stay neutral. Exercising self-restraint, being engaged rather than demanding, all go a long way to deceasing isolation across yourself, others, your teams, and units, your clients, partners, suppliers and vendors.

End isolation. Before it ends you.


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Jay believes real leaders are Activist Leaders. They are magnets for value, seeing people and conditions in a constant state of becoming. Only exceeding performance goals is now longer enough. Activist Leaders are called to inspire transformational change in people, purpose and profit. Jay operates as an executive coach and develops sales teams. He been President/COO of a leading Advertising Network and has personally worked with over 10,000 people worldwide as a Monk and Meditation Retreat Master. Jay focuses on 3 dimensions of improvement acceleration: organizational structure, systems and processes; how key people effectively adapt behavior to accomplish their objectives, & perception management.

  • Leadership isolation occurs only because the leader creates an environment where employee motivation is achieved by authoritarian direction and control. This choice dooms the leader to isolation and the workforce to poor performance. Leadership isolation disappears and performance skyrockets if the leader chooses to motivate employees through self-control. Although I proved this to be the case as a manager, the theory involved (Self-Determination Theory) was revealed by the research of Edward Deci and Richard Ryan with input from hundreds of other researchers.

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