Avoiding the isolation trap in leadership

Business executives are often portrayed as the stoic leaders who can silently shoulder any tribulation as they lead their organisation to success. As the sole figure at the head of the hierarchy, CEOs are expected to draw from their wealth of experience and expertise to steer their ship through all kinds of storms. 

Yet it doesn't take years of research to know that these leaders face a huge amount of stress on a daily basis. While this is part and parcel of the demanding nature of the job, it's important to realise that it doesn't have to be a lonely journey – help is available for those who need it, when they need it.

But are today's executives recieving the leadership development opportunities they need?

Not as much as they'd like to, according to a new study. The 2013 Executive Coaching Survey of over 200 CEOs, board directors and senior executives in North America, almost two-thirds (65.7 per cent) of CEOs reported that they do not receive any coaching or leadership advice from external consultants or coaches. Fewer than half (48.6 per cent) of senior executives said they receive such support.

This was despite the fact that almost all the respondents expressed that they'd like to receive some sort of coaching and advice. A total of 96.4 per cent of CEOs and 94.3 per cent of senior executives agreed that they “enjoy the process of receiving coaching and leadership advice”.

“What's interesting is that nearly 100 per cent of CEOs in the survey responded that they actually enjoy the process of receiving coaching and leadership advice, so there is real opportunity for companies to fill in that gap,” commented David F Larcker, Stanford Graduate School of Business professor and leader of the study.

Stephen Miles, CEO of the Miles Group, added that even the most competent business leaders must ensure they are taking advantage of the assistance available to them instead of trying to soldier on independently.

“Given how vitally important it is for the CEO to be getting the best possible counsel, independent of their board, in order to maintain the health of the corporation, it's concerning that so many of them are 'going it alone',” he said.

“Even the best-of-the-best CEOs have their blind spots and can dramatically improve their performance with an outside perspective weighing in.”

Self-management a vital competency for the modern leader

There is a host of reasons why CEOs today aren't making use of leadership help from outside – and one of them could be that they simply don't realise they need it.

This is why self-awareness and management are such important leadership traits. According to peterberry_author's 'Leadership in Australia and what Makes a High Performing CEO' report, self-management is one of the four crucial domains on leadership competency.

Self-management covers everything from understanding sources of personal and public stress, knowing the difference between healthy and unhealthy stress, identifying personal blind spots and being aware of personal 'masks.'

While stress plays a huge part in CEOs' lives, fortunately there are special programs to help leaders manage it better and thus develop into better leaders. One such program is Executive Stamina – an initiative designed to help even the most stressed leaders gain better mastery over their professional lives.

Through taking part in the program, leaders can increase their emotional and physical energy and build their mental resilience, ensuring they no longer feel isolated while leading their organisation.