The Loneliest Jobs in the World
Can you name the two loneliest jobs in the world?
I’m sure many come to mind – like long-haul truck drivers, deep-sea divers, lighthouse keepers or astronauts. And while those are certainly in the running, I’ve always said that the two loneliest jobs in the world are pastor and CEO. With the weight of making decisions, sparking inspiration and sharing guidance placed squarely on their shoulders, leaders in these roles take on a unique burden that can be impossible to understand if you haven’t been in their shoes. The view from the top is beautiful and rewarding, but it’s also uniquely isolating.
The Boardroom Blues
Imagine being the captain of a ship navigating through uncharted waters, but your only company is the echo of your own decisions. Or you’re one of the lucky ones with a crew, but all you ever hear about is how your crew members would do things differently if they were captain.
Well, being at the helm of a company can be just as lonely. Burdened with the responsibility of making critical decisions that can shape the future of their organizations – and the people in them – the pressure to lead effectively and make tough calls, coupled with the weight of accountability, can lead to a profound sense of loneliness. And the higher up the corporate ladder, the fewer peers there are to relate to on a personal and professional level.
Preaching to the Choir
Pastors also know the isolation game all too well. Spiritual leaders spend their lives grappling with the emotional and spiritual well-being of their congregations, devoting their whole lives to providing guidance and support to others, but where do they turn when seeking guidance themselves? And if they do have someone to turn to, is it a relationship where they’re comfortable having hard conversations and telling each other what they need to hear?
The emotional toll of constantly carrying the needs and expectations of those in your flock can create a unique form of loneliness. And when you boil it down, these feelings aren’t much different from what I hear from the CEOs I work with.
On my podcast, The Frustrated CEO, I recently had the opportunity to pick the brains of two pastors, John Fehlen and Ryan Holloway. We sat down for two episodes to discuss the unique highs and lows of leading a church – and their vulnerable insights were nothing short of inspiring.
Through their trials, they’ve each found ways to prioritize their own needs so they can better serve those who look to them for guidance. They emphasized the importance of many different facets of self-care, like prioritizing different focuses during different seasons of life and setting and managing boundaries with those around you, but there was one priority in particular that we all kept coming back to – finding the right support system.
A Sanctuary of Support
Regardless of your profession, having a trusted group who genuinely understands the challenges you face is crucial. In my conversation with John and Ryan, we talked about the importance of finding people who not only listen to your problems, but also provide honest and constructive feedback. A solid inner circle can serve as a sanctuary where you can be vulnerable, knowing you are seen, heard and safe.
These aren’t just friends or family; they’re your lifeline. They won’t just tell you what you want to hear; they’ll tell you what you need to hear. The transparency, honesty and authenticity within this inner circle become a shield against the loneliness that clouds the job.
No matter how daunting the journey, having a support system that cares about you and works to understand what you’re going through can make all the difference. These personal confidants and cheerleaders are often exactly what we need to lift us up when the loneliness seems overwhelming.
In all the loneliness of leadership, it helps to remember that you’re never alone in feeling alone. While the path can feel solitary, the journey always becomes more bearable when you have a trusted inner circle to lean on. Whether you’re a CEO guiding a corporation or a pastor guiding people in their faith, the fix for loneliness usually lies in strong, genuine connections that can go beyond the surface and remind you why you do what you do in the first place.
Inner circles can come in all different shapes and sizes – and there are always places to look if yours could use some new members. Taking extra time to spend with family and friends, attending industry events to meet new like-minded people and joining peer networks are all great places to start. And if you’re looking for an impartial guide who can offer insights, perspective and strategies from experience with peers facing similar challenges, then a strategic coach may be just the person for the job (hint, hint – I know a guy).
Leadership is a uniquely lonely journey, but opening up about it is never a bad place to start. The more you embrace transparency and vulnerability, the less room there is for loneliness to take root.
To listen to John and Ryan’s episodes of The Frustrated CEO, you can find that here.
If you prefer a video, check out our new YouTube channel.