Hidden Price of Leadership

The Hidden price of leadership

In the professional world, the position of CEO is coveted by many, dreamt about by several and achieved by few. But do you really know the hidden price of leadership?

The role of CEO or a professional leadership position can be fulfilling, meaningful and worthwhile. However, it is more common than you think for a CEO to find themselves feeling empty whilst at the peak of their career. Why is this?

From the outside looking in, you’ve made it! You’re the boss! You have the office, the title, and the paycheck. But inside you feel a lack of direction, purpose and meaning. The weight of the entire company sits upon your shoulders, in success and in failure. You are in a position of power to make big decisions, but no amount of power can keep everyone in the company happy. That is just the tip of the iceberg of the harsh reality of a CEO. Add a full schedule of meetings, consistent interruptions, deadlines, not enough time, issues arising seeking your solution and the list goes on and it seems impossible.

The causes of dissatisfaction in leadership

Let’s look at the most common reasons for unhappy and unfulfilled CEOs and leaders.

Unmet Expectations – Unmet expectations can be a killer for new and experienced CEOs. The gap between reality and unmet expectations is action. However, sometimes the gap seems insurmountable and impossible to work for. CEOs in this position often feel burnt out before they even try.

Burnout – Burnout can be defined as a syndrome that is the result of chronic workplace stress that has not been managed effectively. It is found that 60% of business leaders feel completely drained and ineffective at the end of the day, which is a significant indicator of burnout.

Imposter Syndrome – Imposter syndrome affects more of the professional population than you would think. Imposter syndrome in this case is where successful people believe that they’re only successful due to luck and not actually their hard work or natural ability. They believe they are frauds waiting to be caught.

Disconnection From Meaning and Purpose – CEO’s can often feel disconnected from their purpose because their reach and capacity are stretched in many ways. Having to work with so many aspects of a company and with increased expectations placed upon the CEO, can inhibit them from feeling they are having a deep and meaningful impact on their work. This can leave leaders feeling a lack of purpose and direction.

Unhappiness and dissatisfaction reduce engagement with work, efficiency, and staff retention, so it is imperative to the longevity and success of the company that the CEO can lead effectively under the weight of responsibility and find meaning within their job.

The solution

The solutions for feeling unsatisfied as a leader are not quick fixes. They require action, time, and energy. However, if you want to fulfil your role and be fulfilled by your role, it is essential you commit to the solutions.

Hierarchy of Needs

The first port of call is assessing how the CEO is having their basic needs met and strategizing how they can best find fulfilment by moving up the Hierarchy of Needs.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs - Suzi Jurist

Abraham Maslow developed the idea of the Hierarchy of Needs. This idea suggests that people cannot move up the pyramid of needs without having their basic physiological needs met. It is only when all the needs in the pyramid are met that an individual can dive into full self-actualisation. This means that for a CEO to have high motivation, self-esteem, and sense of purpose, it is essential that they have met the preceding basic needs.

Suzi Jurist developed this business application of the Hierarchy of Needs. As well as basic needs being met in personal life, it is essential that basic leadership needs are being met in business life as well.

Suzi Jurist - Business Needs

Filling gaps that are present in both need pyramids is the first step to solving CEO dissatisfaction!

Keep it Simple!

Keeping it simple is crucial for optimised satisfaction. When you have too much on your plate, things will give way, crash, and burn. Handling too much all at once almost guarantees dissatisfaction because you can’t give your full attention to each project, only creating more and more distance between you and your fulfilment.

Things that will help you keep it simple but maximises your influence is using simple things like checklists, task-shedding and relying on your wingman to help you when you are feeling the disconnect.

Empower Your Teams

Nothing is more empowering than seeing the successes of your teams! Empowered teams get results! Empowering your teams looks like this:

  • Sharing your vision and direction for where you are heading
  • Delegating tasks to teams – increasing their feeling of purpose and autonomy and helping you clear your plate to be a better leader
  • Celebrate successes of all shapes and sizes
  • Let your teams decision-make and create plans that align with your vision

Leadership can feel lonely! Being a CEO is not always as glamorous as it seems! Having authority is challenging. But you don’t have to let these leadership challenges break you. Assess how you’re meeting your needs, create meaning where you are, keep it simple, and empower your teams! These are all ways that you can go from feeling meaningless and directionless at the peak of your career to leading a purpose-driven life and being a successful CEO!

References –

Abrams, A. (2018). Yes, imposter syndrome is real. Here's how to deal with it. Time. https://time.com/5312483/how-to-deal-with-impostor-syndrome/

Jurist, S. (2019). A business application of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. LinkedIn. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/business-application-maslows-hierarchy-needs-suzy-jurist/

Kiger, D. (2017). The power of empowerment: CEOs can help employees to become leaders. Business 2 Community. https://www.business2community.com/leadership/power-empowerment-ceos-can-help-employees-become-leaders-01940358

McLeod, S. (2020). Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Simply Psychology. https://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html

Segal, E. (2021). Leaders and employees are burning out at record rates: New survey. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/edwardsegal/2021/02/17/leaders-and-employees-are-burning-out-at-record-rates-new-survey/?sh=53741c786499

Taylor, S. (2017). The angst. of the CEO: When success leaves you feeling empty. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2017/09/08/the-angst-of-the-ceo-when-success-leaves-you-feeling-empty/?sh=18471dc73c5e

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