Lonely at the Top and Bottom

How Leaders Manage their Loneliness
and the Loneliness of their Team Members

Have you ever asked yourself these two questions: “Do I feel lonely sometimes in my work?” and “Why?” As research from GLI's President Dr. Anthony Silard and Sarah Wright of the University of Canterbury in New Zealand has found, leaders and their direct reports often feel lonely due to the stifling of three critical human motives.

On both sides of the Atlantic, loneliness has become a complex, ubiquitous problem. In the U.S., a recent Cigna survey of 20,000 Americans found that over 3 in 5 Americans are lonely, which has raised the decibels on siren calls of a “national loneliness epidemic.” In this survey, over 60 percent of Americans acknowledged that they feel isolated from others and that their relationships are sometimes or always not meaningful.

The “epidemic” designation has also been used in the UK, where former Prime Minister Theresa May appointed a Minister for Loneliness in 2018. May reached this decision on the heels of two studies that found that 9 million UK citizens are often or always lonely and British children spend less time outside than prison inmates. As loneliness is becoming increasingly ubiquitous, companies that reduce it—by fulfilling the three distinct motives GLI will share with you in this session—will become in higher demand. You will learn about how lonely people act differently than people who are not lonely, and how these differences can derail healthy organizational functioning.

We will also explore the determinants of leadership loneliness and how it differs from follower loneliness. Finally, you will develop some strategies to reduce both your loneliness and the loneliness of your team members. Be warned: you may never look at people management the same.

Session Learning Objectives

  • Participants will be able to:
  • 1 Distinguish loneliness as a subordinate emotion and the “re-affiliation motive” that enables organizational members
    to reduce it.
  • 2 Identify the three root causes of loneliness in companies and organizations.
  • 3 Identify determinants of leader loneliness and design strategies to assuage their own loneliness and that of their team members.
  • 4 Describe the intrapersonal and organizational outcomes associated with loneliness.
  • 5 Understand the role of social support in alleviating loneliness for your team members.

Contact GLI if you would like us to help you customize
a leadership conference for your company or organization.