It’s lonely at the top

Do you ever get to the end of a week at work and feel as if you’ve just sailed single-handedly across a vast ocean? You’ve managed a dozen mini crises. Had a multitude of conversations. Made some easy and some difficult decisions and steered the organisation, as successfully as you know how, through the ebbs and flows of the week’s challenges.

But you did it all on your own. You had your team, I know (even if it was just one person) but you’re the leader. You’re expected to lead, right? Nobody wants to see a wobbler at the top.

It can be tough up there

Senior third sector leaders often tell me about the frustrations of working on their own. They talk of having no peers to share ideas and decisions with or to chivvy them along when they lose motivation or focus.

They take their frustrations home where they become a burden there too. For some it can be hugely draining and stressful – I know chief execs who’ve been approaching burnout when they’ve come to me for coaching.

Help at the top

In my coaching, we tackle this problem by creating a plan of action to get the right support – sometimes neglected for years, as the practicalities of running things always seem to come first.

I believe that the right support is essential, even for apparently successful and go-getting high flyers who’ve made it to the top. Here are just three of the strategies we explore:

  • One of the most important aspects is building a strong, supportive relationship with the Chair. This is such a vital part of your job, and can be such a source of challenge when it goes awry. I invite my clients to explore ways they can get more support from this direction – even commitments such as a five-minute check-in at the end of each week are very powerful. Or perhaps something more fundamental needs to change in your relationship.
  • I also urge my clients to build a strong, warm network of peers outside their organisation, either informally over coffees, or through professional organisations and networking events. Everyone, however introverted, needs a team of people they like and trust rooting for them. I hear how my clients don’t have time for this but humans are community creatures! We need others to share successes and challenges with as we work to change the world.
  • Another great way is to get help from one other person – be it a mentor (an expert in the field) or a coach (an expert in bringing out the best in people). Having non-judgemental support from outside and dedicated space to focus on YOU can be truly transformational – for you and for your organisation.

Over to you

Does this blog resonate? Is it lonely at the top for you? I’d love to know what you think and to hear your suggestions for getting help at this level. Please add your comments in the reply box below.

What next?

If you need more support leading your non-profit or purpose-led team, give me a call on 0208 772 7808 (or 07958 501 427) or email We’ll book in a no-obligation chat about how one-to-one coaching can help.