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Executives Need Something Besides Work In Their Lives

Curing the loneliness of command

CEOs are quickly derailed without a sense of community. Recently, I was listening to the CFO of a large industrial firm who complained non-stop about her CEO. At the start of his tenure, the CEO regularly interacted with his top team, but now seemed to spend most of his time brooding in his office. In meetings, he would often lose focus, have fits of anger and harass people. The CEO’s mercurial style was impacting morale and, increasingly, sales. Some subordinates wondered whether their CEO was falling apart in front of their eyes.

The phrase “it’s lonely at the top” sounds cliché, but for many top executives, it is a harsh reality. A CEO’s responsibilities tend to come with sleepless nights and constant worry about having made the right decisions. The psychological pressure can inflict an emotional strain that most employees will never experience. Outwardly, this may present as aloofness, which, in turn, makes it even harder for a CEO to remain effective.

In the absence of a support system, burnout becomes a real threat. Men in particular tend to let their personal relationships with friends and family take a back seat to their professional ambitions. They may find themselves with nobody to rely on during difficult times and then turn to extra-marital affairs or alcohol and drugs.

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