How can you be lonely when you are working with other people? Leaders are in a position where they are directing an organisation or a group of people – otherwise they wouldn’t be leaders. This means that they have to have a broad perspective on what is happening around their group and be thinking about how they are going to react and what changes may be necessary to achieve their aims – both for themselves and their organisation. So they are thinking on 3 levels: strategic (what is going to happen in the distant future), tactical (what do I need to get done in the short term) and the organisational (what do I need to implement to position us for the future).
This is a different level of thinking to the majority of the rest of the group. Their focus is getting their tasks done and other aspects of their lives. This means that they are not looking a distance ahead and it is likely that the need for change is going to be a surprise. Their perspective is most likely: what does this mean for me? Do I need to work harder? Is my job/role safe?
This difference in perspective means that the person in a leadership role needs in a very different mental space from the rest of the team or group. They may also have more information about what is going on or they may have access to other resources that their team members don’t.
Can you be friends with people that you are leading? Probably not: you may have to make difficult decisions and in that case, the needs of the team and organisation are paramount. Also, if your team think you have favourites, then that can weaken your credibility as a leader.
So: not only does the leader have to be the dynamo that drives the organisation and sets its direction, they also are working alone when they are doing it. This means that you have to have other aspects of your life that can provide the relationships that humans need to thrive. A lonely place? At work, unfortunately yes.