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It's Lonely At The Top – Choosing Solitude Instead Of Loneliness

Written by: Lars Friedrich, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 
Executive Contributor Lars Friedrich

Often, and due to the nature of their demanding and exposed positions, executives and leaders in corporate and entrepreneurial business environments commonly express feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Man walking in the middle of road on a cold weather

But sometimes, it is also essential for leaders to withdraw themselves from the hectic life they're living and walk their path alone in solitude as an active approach to self-leadership and self-development.


Loneliness, isolation and solitude

Loneliness and isolation are different but related. Loneliness is the distressing feeling of being alone or separated, while isolation, also called social isolation, is the lack of contact and having few people to interact with regularly. In other words, loneliness is a sense of isolation that persists even when other people are present and is often a forced state. Solitude, in contrast, is the choice to be alone and use that time either for reflection or simply enjoyment in one's own company. It's about being present with one's self rather than the lack of company.


Lonely leaders

"It's lonely at the top!" You probably have heard the term before, and the top, in this case, refers to people who are in positions of leadership or authority. Obviously, the weight of knowing that their decisions can have far-reaching consequences can lead to a sense of isolation and loneliness. Executives and leaders may also feel alone in their decision-making process and have no one to turn to for guidance or support. This can be particularly true if their decisions are controversial and they fear potential backlash or criticism from others.


The benefits of solitude


But interestingly, time alone can also be very beneficial for balancing feelings of isolation and loneliness. Solitude as an actively chosen and scheduled "alone time" allows executives and leaders to reflect on their thoughts and feelings without external influence. They can develop greater self-awareness and improve their ability to empathise with others by tuning in to their emotions. It has been proven that times of solitude for them can lead to:

  • Heightened Decision-Making Abilities

  • Improved Self-Reflection and Growth

  • Enhanced Creativity and Innovation

  • Increased Emotional Intelligence


Ancient approaches

The concept of solitude to enhance, improve and evolve self-awareness and mindfulness for self-leadership has already been documented in the Western ancient texts of the Greek and Roman philosophers.


"𝐈𝐭 𝐢𝐬 𝐢𝐧 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐩𝐨𝐰𝐞𝐫 𝐭𝐨 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡𝐝𝐫𝐚𝐰 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫𝐬𝐞𝐥𝐟 𝐰𝐡𝐞𝐧𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐫 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐝𝐞𝐬𝐢𝐫𝐞. 𝐏𝐞𝐫𝐟𝐞𝐜𝐭 𝐭𝐫𝐚𝐧𝐪𝐮𝐢𝐥𝐢𝐭𝐲 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐧 𝐜𝐨𝐧𝐬𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐬 𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐠𝐨𝐨𝐝 𝐨𝐫𝐝𝐞𝐫𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐦𝐢𝐧𝐝, 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐥𝐦 𝐨𝐟 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐨𝐰𝐧." – Marcus Aurelius

And equally, the Eastern approaches are always full of inspiration, too! For example, the 21 principles mentioned in Miyamoto Musashi's book "Dokkōdō" from 1645, which translates to "The Path of Aloneness", "The Way to Go Forth Alone", or "The Way of Walking Alone", are a great and valuable source for leadership inspiration. ¹


The right path

Often, the right path for anyone in a position of leadership or authority is not the easiest one because leadership is an undeniably demanding role that requires a significant amount of resilience, determination and emotional intelligence. So, it is essential to recognise that leaders may feel lonely and isolated! But by taking proactive, healthy steps to address these feelings and perhaps seeking active solitude, they can not only improve their well-being but also foster a more supportive and inclusive organisational culture for those they lead and take responsibility for.


Indeed, solitude might be the right path for anyone in a position of leadership or authority in corporate and entrepreneurial business environments to become clear about feelings of perceived loneliness and isolation.


And to actively withdraw from all external factors to gain and shift perspective by scheduling regular precious "alone time’.

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Lars Friedrich Brainz Magazine
 

Lars Friedrich, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Lars Friedrich is an expert in personal & professional leadership transformations refined with a touch of Zen. As a former Officer & Special Forces Operator, executive in international & intercultural corporate positions and founder of his boutique business, he has vast accumulated experience, expertise & knowledge in leadership, resilience, endurance, commitment, persistence & dedication. Furthermore, Lars Friedrich trained in traditional Japanese Martial Arts for 42 years and frequently travels to Japan for his ongoing tuition, which amplifies his experience. With family ties & homes in Australia, Finland & Germany, he is proudly serving & guiding male & female leaders via shared knowledge & passion.

 

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