Leadership is Lonely

Colin Powell, former general and Secretary of State, has a famous list of 18 leadership lessons. In it, the final lesson is as follows: Command is Lonely. And I, for one, agree.

One thing to know about me, is that my personality only amplifies the issue. Contrary to what you may think about me, I’m actually an introvert that acts like an extrovert when necessary. I’m outgoing, outspoken, make friends very well, but that’s not my nature, it’s my nuture. When I was growing up, I moved around a lot. I had 4 different elementary schools across 3 states, including 3 separate 1st grade classes, across 2 states. I attended 2 different high schools, 600 miles apart. With a lifestyle like that, if you’re not outgoing, you don’t make friends, and you probably end up highly depressed. So culturally, I was an outgoing and popular person. But naturally and at home, I was an introvert. I wanted to sit alone and read or write. Constantly. Don’t bother me, don’t talk to me, just leave me alone with my books and pen.

And nothing since then has changed. I still prefer independence. Even unhealthily at times. I sit in the bathtub alone, reading, for hours on end when possible. I enjoy being alone, thinking, reading, and writing. Yet others often see me as an outgoing, outspoken guy. And I’m not faking it, I’m just both at different times.

What I’m leading to is this: my introverted nature prefers disconnection from people. And my role as a leader only increases that in reality. When you’re a leader, you often are so busy leading people from the front that you look beside you..and it’s just you. No one is beside you, just behind you, following your example. And this is both healthy and unhealthy.

So while being a leader is great, and allows for progress to made in whatever sphere you’re in, just be prepared for the loneliness. It’s greater than you think.

Disclaimer: This is not a cry for help’ or complaint that I have no friends. This is simply a warning for other modern leaders to be aware of the loneliness that comes with leadership.


April 27, 2023