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What keeps CEOs and leaders awake at night?

Even leaders need a trusted sounding board.

Whilst living in the UK between 2004 and 2010, I spent a number of years in an executive coaching organisation called Vistage International, also known as The Executive Connection (TEC) here in Australia.

One of the most commonly discussed questions was, “what keeps CEOs and executives of organisations awake at night?” Various reasons were given, but often, the financial performance of the organisation was noted as the main contributor.

My observation was, that we all understood the importance of the people, processes and systems within our organisation, however, without financial performance, there would be no business.

The question then became, what should we be focusing on to ensure financially viable organisations?

Thankfully, it was an environment where we could share ideas, frustrations and take a moment to self-reflect. I really enjoyed the interactions and learnt so much from different perspectives from a variety of industry leaders.

It provided me with the opportunity to present an idea or a strategy to my group and they would provide some very constructive feedback. I received advice on people and culture, legal, financial, operational, technology and marketing etcetera.

By the time I pitched those ideas to my own organisation, I had answers for the majority of the questions put to me by my peers and the rest of the organisation. It made a massive difference to my mental wellbeing.

This month, our theme is “focus”.

With all that is happening around you, what are you focusing on?

I’m willing to bet that, the question that I started this blog with; still rings true today. But if I may, I’d like to rephrase that questions for a moment and ask it a different way.

Why are CEOs, executives and business owners lying awake at night?

What is occupying their focus?

Based on my own experience and that of others that I have talked with, I’m willing to guess RESPONSIBILITY!

Whether you are a CEO of a large corporation, an entrepreneur of a start-up, a sole trader, a parent, or whatever your title is, people are reliant on you. Real or perceived, we feel this sense of burden due to responsibility.

For example, within an organisation, your people rely on you to lead them towards a mutually beneficial outcome. You are also responsible to your stakeholders to ensure they get a good return on their investment.

Fundamentally though, your family are relying on you to provide for them. We are social creatures, and we intuitively want to nurture and protect.

In a leadership position within an organisation, you are also aware that your people’s ability to provide for their own families is reliant on the decisions that you make.

This responsibility can and does feel like a burden. The fear of failing or not living up to expectation adds even more weight to that responsibility.

And rather than discussing the feeling of pressure with your loved ones, or your colleagues, you try and fix it on your own – after all, aren’t leaders meant to be strong?

By now, doubt is starting to creep in that you will not be able to meet your responsibilities in leading and providing.

Still, you feel like you need to keep up with what you think is expected of you. You then start making “hard decisions” and distance yourself emotionally from your people, both at work and at home.

Before long – it’s lonely at the top!

You can’t sleep!

Sound familiar?

What if, rather than viewing it as a burden, we see it as an honour, a privilege and a testament of the strong character of the person that we have become?

What if, we let our people take some of that responsibility?

What if, we had faith that people will find a way to solve problems if we gave them space and the freedom to innovate?

Perhaps then, we could share that responsibility.

Perhaps then, our people can share the pressure that we as leaders take upon ourselves.

Perhaps then we could turn that burden into an opportunity and a blessing.

Perhaps then, we could sleep at night.

Perhaps then it wouldn’t be so lonely at the top.

PS: Share that burden by passing on your wisdom and it won’t feel so lonely.

PPS: If you are a business owner/CEO, a manager, an entrepreneur or someone who just needs someone else to explore ideas or reflect with, give Sam a call on 0405 053 689 or book a FREE 45-minute no-obligation chat via his online calendar here.

Share my Insight and help someone else!

About the Author

Trusted advisor and implementer of transformational change, business turnaround and restructure strategies for CEOs and Boards in not-for-profits, public service and blue chip multinationals.

A visionary strategist and pragmatic operationalist with 25+ years experience that can bridge Technology, Operations & HR.

Having worked in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, he is very aware of the impact of technology changes on culture in organisations big and small.

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