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A community of leaders is the antidote to the isolation and stress we’re all feeling at work

BIG IDEA

After 18 months of the global pandemic, leaders are lonelier and more isolated than ever.

A leadership role has always been a lonely place to be. Unfortunately, the forced isolation of the past year eighteen months has only deepened an already significant problem.

We’ve all been working from home, cut off from casual conversations around the office. And we’ve had to give up many of our usual social outlets. It’s no wonder that we see a massive increase in symptoms of depression and anxiety – at work and in life. Naturally, that isolation at work can extend to your entire life, as you haven’t been able to devote time to socialize or build strong relationships outside of work.

WHY IT MATTERS

Being a leader doesn’t have to feel as lonely as it does. A community of leaders will help.

In theory, I suspect most leaders would say that being part of a supportive leadership community is a good thing. But I suppose, given everything we’ve been through, most leaders now know just how critical it is.

I suspect if you were already part of a strong leadership community before the pandemic, you and your colleagues fared better in dealing with all the challenges you faced. You knew you and your colleagues were all pulling together to help the organization get through, and you had a sense of team spirit that helped keep you motivated. That sense of connection helped you stay motivated at work, do better, and cope with the stress of the past year.

If you were not part of a leadership community, the last eighteen months have likely presented considerable pressure and stress for you.

THE IMPACT

Companies need communities of leaders to drive productivity

Anxiety and depression are known to decrease productivity. One can conclude then that many leaders haven’t been at their best.

To complicate things, I believe we have this faulty assumption that leaders are impervious to stress. But the research shows now shows they are not. In fact, one recent study found that C-suite leaders are struggling more with mental health issues than their employees are – a surprising and concerning finding.

The good news is we know that a leadership community with strong relationships with peers and colleagues can reduce your stress and make work more engaging and enjoyable.

In one recent survey, 70% of people said strong relationships are the key to a happy and satisfying work life.

In my book, Accountable Leaders, I cite a great quote from Dr. Henry Mintzberg of McGill University. Writing in a Harvard Business Review article, Mintzberg stated, “Individualism is a fine idea. It provides incentive, promotes leadership, and encourages development—but not on its own. We are social animals who cannot function effectively without a social system that is larger than ourselves. This is what is meant by ‘community’—the social glue that binds us together for the greater good.”

Companies desperately need communities of leaders. I believe they always did, but today this is even more critical. Leaders desperately want to be part of a community – they no longer want to feel isolated, disconnected or lonely at work.

WHAT TO PAY ATTENTION TO

Commit to being a community builder in your organization.

In an episode of my Lead the Future podcast, I interviewed Gina Bianchini, founder and CEO of Mighty Networks. Her company is a technology leader in ushering in a new era of creative business built on community. In our conversation, Bianchini spoke passionately about what all thriving communities have in common:

  • First, there is a joy that comes from being part of something bigger than yourself. You do not feel isolated or lonely; you feel connected to something significant and essential.
  • Second, when pursuing a common goal with others, we can take on work challenges and overcome obstacles that we could not do independently.
  • Third, there is also the joy that comes from building skills, getting better every day. Finally, thriving communities provide their members with permission to be vulnerable as they navigate challenges together.

You have the opportunity to be the leader that creates this sense of connection and community in your own company among your peers and colleagues.

Here are some are gut check questions to help you assess where you are and where to focus for the balance of the year.

  1. To what extent do you have peers and colleagues you can go to for advice and support when you need it?
  2. Which colleagues do you believe genuinely have your back and are there to support you and even challenge you when you need it?
  3. When you are under extreme stress and having a tough day or week, do you have a trusted colleague you can go to, to vent or gain valuable perspectives?
  4. Do you have a set of peers and colleagues where you can open up, be vulnerable and feel safe to discuss the leadership challenges you face?
  5. In what specific ways can you build a stronger community of leaders in the second half of 2021?

If you become a community builder, you will find that your peers and colleagues will support you. Everyone is struggling with the isolation at work and the challenges of being a leader today. Commit to being the social glue in your organization!

Are you building the community of leaders that you need to succeed?

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