It's lonely at the top
Or "Don't you prick my precious bubble"
“It's lonely at the top.”
The first time I heard this phrase it sounded like an accusation. I had dared to question why management didn’t feel like a team, why no one ever shared challenges, why every meeting felt performative.
Apparently the problem was me, for not wanting to accept a basic tennet of leadership.
Me being me, I refused to accept the loneliness.
I decided to take the matter into my own hands, reaching out to people I trust and admire, going deep in Mastermind groups and sparring with my business coach. “We don’t have to do things the way they’ve always been done” (my favourite quote from).
I’ve learned that it doesn’t have to be lonely at the top. And I’ve been privileged to help others holding the lonelines at bay.
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Loneliness: suffering apart together
Loneliness is the number one problem for remote employees. It’s root cause is the lack of meaningful connection to other people. It feels like you can’t share anything with anyone - because you don’t know anyone well enough to feel they would care.
In a remote environment creating those connections requires intentional communication design. And even then, managers and leaders face an extra hurdle: sharing your challenges may not be appropriate across hierarchies - and may not feel save with potential competitors for the next promotion.
Believing that loneliness is a necessary part of being “at the top” becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and an excuse for not showing any vulnerability to anyone - creating even more loneliness.
That’s how loneliness suddenly becomes a badge of honour, an indication that you’ve indeed made it to the top (because otherwise - why would you feel lonely?). Suddenly the people who threaten the loneliness become dangerous. The bubble of self-importance has become too cosy.
It doesn’t have to be lonely (not at the top - not anywhere)
The most effective antidote to loneliness is having people that you can share your challenges with. They don’t even need to be from the same organization. And if you currently feel lonely at the top - starting to create your un-loneliness strategy outside the organization may be a valid first step.
Where to start, though?
You need people who love you, people who support you, people who productively challenge you, and people who actively look out for you.
So - who’s that in your life? And how can you make them part of your journey?
✨ Find your cheerleaders.
Cheerleaders believe in you. They’ll celebrate every success, they’ll scream at the moon with you over every injustice. Sometimes it’s a parent, a best friend from back in highschool, or that lady from across the street who “always knew that you’d get far”. They can hold your emotions, so share those.
Know your supporters.
Supporters know what you stand for, they know what you are capable of. They share your ideas, and they feel invested in your success. When you need help, they are there for you in both small and big ways, because they understand what you do. More often than not they’ve studied or worked with you in the past.
💜 Invest in your mentors.
Mentors see your potential. They can help you look at your challenges from a different perspective. You know that you can learn from them asking the right questions. You can find mentors over joined non-work interests, through a joint life purpose, or even hire them (great coaches make amazing mentors).
🌱 Cherish your sponsors.
A sponsor will actively recommend you when you aren't in the room. They put their own reputation on the line for you to suceed. That means they know you well and know what you are capable of. They will be as proud of your success as you are - or maybe even more.
It doesn't have to be lonely at the top. Create your network. Stop pretending you can do it all on your own.
Shoutout to my fellow members of European Women on Boards who helped me shape these ideas.
How to have a conversation
Whenever, Barcelona, Spain. Generally, I am based close-ish to Barcelona - so meeting in the area is not impossible. And otherwise there’s always Zoom.
In London because why not, March 20/21/22. Technically it’s a birthday workation so why not combine it with a real-life encounter if you are around.
Business of Software, March 27/28 in Cambridge, UK. I’ll be speaking about Distraction Management, or how to be productive when you have kids. For last minute decisions, use VALENTINA20 to get a 20% discount on the ticket prices.
Running Remote, April 25/26 in Lisbon, Portugal. This is the European edition of THE conference on the future of work. I’ll be there to re-connect with friends that I rarely see in real life - and if you will be there, let me know.
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👑 I am Val, the Empress of Remote
✨ I help founders and executives to figure out remote work (yes, I can be your coach/mentor)
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🔔 A link tree to show you where to find me.