They say it’s lonely at the top. And today there is an actual loneliness epidemic in business. According to a September 2022 survey by Monster, two-thirds of employees say they would quit if their employer requires them to come into the office full-time. 40% of employees say they may quit if required to come into the office even one day weekly. They prefer working alone. And that’s just employee stats.
According to Forbes Advisor, 27.1 million businesses are run by a single owner and have no employees, and it is likely that number will rise as Google and Amazon are hit with massive layoffs. Maybe now is the time to start that independent venture!
Working for ourselves, and on our own schedule can have quite an allure. When we do, there is no one to second-guess our decisions or judge our actions besides us (and let’s face it, most of us are harder on ourselves than anyone.) We are free to think, feel and do as we please.
Which can feel amazing at first. Until we hit some tough situations. Then it can feel really scary and lonely.
Running a small business is often portrayed as a solo journey, where being a boss means shouldering everything alone. The isolation many small business owners feel can contribute to burnout. Let's delve into the myth and realities about loneliness at the top, the difference between being a boss and a leader, and how reevaluating choices can bring balance to small business leadership.
Leadership Rooted in Real Connection
The loneliness at the top is a common experience for small business owners. Even so, that is a choice which can have disastrous effects. Businesses do not grow in isolation, and trying to do so quickly gets you out of touch with your industry, trends and client needs. Instead of embracing isolation, it's crucial to recognize that leadership is about building real connections. In a world where remote work and distancing have become the norm, fostering genuine connections with your team, clients, and partners is a powerful antidote to loneliness.
Breaking Free from the Control Trap of Working Alone
The isolation many small business owners feel is often linked to the belief that being a boss means having control over every aspect. Finally! I get to do this my way! However, true leadership involves letting go of unnecessary control and trusting your team – even if that team is a coach, a mastermind, a peer networking group, or a mentor. Trusting other people on your journey means being teachable, not blindly doing every single thing that is suggested.
But if you only have your own experience and thinking to guide you, you are leading inside an echo chamber that keeps you moving slowly if you are moving at all. Acknowledging that you don't have to navigate challenges alone can be a transformative step towards a more balanced and sustainable leadership approach.
Embracing Diverse Perspectives for Growth, Even When Working Alone
Navigating loneliness requires recognizing the value of diverse perspectives. Small business owners, in their pursuit of being a boss, may inadvertently overlook the strength that comes from others who have various vantage points on events, both good and challenging. Without other people’s views, it can be too easy to get overly excited in one instance and overwhelmed and discouraged in another.
This is especially dangerous for leaders grappling with any form of imposter syndrome, who are terrified of someone “discovering” they are some sort of a fraud, clueless, or are underqualified.
Embracing diverse viewpoints not only fuels innovation, but also creates a sense of shared purpose, mitigating the sense of isolation that can accompany leadership.
Overcoming Burnout: Reflecting on Choices
Burnout is as much of a real challenge for small business owners as it is for employees these days, and it's essential to address the root causes. Reflecting on choices that contribute to stress, acknowledging the impact of loneliness, and seeking feedback are crucial steps. The transition from being a boss to a leader involves not only making conscious choices but also prioritizing well-being and balance.
In the journey from burnout to balance, it's vital for small business owners to recognize the difference between being a boss and a leader. Leadership is about building connections, letting go of unnecessary control, embracing diverse perspectives, and reflecting on choices. By fostering a collaborative and supportive environment, small business owners can transform the narrative from loneliness to a shared journey of growth and success.
Think you might need support navigating your isolation in business? Reach out and let's have a brief discussion about your needs.