It’s lonely at the top


by gigCMO MD Mark F. Magnacca

CEOs are lonely says Forbes, citing loneliness as the number one challenge for CEOs that no one talks about. Amidst the kudos, the challenges and the opportunities comes the isolation. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

The challenges that a CEO faces are different to those of other members of the team because in amongst it you are not only responsible for the company, but also for the careers of those within it as well.

However, no man is an island; everyone needs a sounding board – somewhere to get good advice without agenda, and someone to voice their ideas to in order to see if they make sense out loud. So while everyone else is turning to their colleague or manager, who do you, the boss, turn to?

“No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main.” – poet John Donne

No one should do it alone

To thrive in the changing world of work takes a particular mindset. We have talked in previous articles about the key attributes of a modern leader – empathy, selflessness, flexibility, the ability to listen, humility, good communication skills, cultural intelligence, intuition – and so forth. However, with the best will in the world it is almost impossible for one person to embody all those things all of the time.

In a recent board meeting with one of our clients, our acting fractional CMO found herself being thanked profusely when delivering a presentation explaining her marketing strategy for the company. Not only did they thank her for her exemplary work, they also thanked her for something more fundamental than that; explaining the concepts without making them feel foolish for not having an inherent grasp of all aspects of marketing strategy.

We know how difficult it can be to ask for help when, as a company leader, you feel the pressure to know everything all the time, but we also know that best of leaders ask for help; it’s just a question of finding the right place and the right people to ask.

Your role as an effective leader

A study of executive profiles by the Harvard Business Review showed that the value in the C-Suite was different to other leading roles within a company: “once people reach the C-suite, technical and functional expertise matters less than leadership skills and a strong grasp of business fundamentals.”

As a business owner, growth, goal acquisition and financial gain are likely to be top priorities, and so they should be. So within your ranks you no doubt have an effective and dynamic team including young high fliers who bring an important energy to your company, vital for driving innovation and a universal desire to surge forwards. But within your effusive, energetic, driven and competitive team, it’s important to have a smattering of people who provide a leveller to avoid making the faux pas that you could only foresee through experience, and to envisage strategies and directions that only time makes you party to.

Of course, this can be achieved through other members of senior management, but experience is not a prerequisite for being on the board, especially in a young company that’s taken off at the speed of light. Equally, these are people who, like you, see the company from within and have their own objectives. When it comes to advice, you need people who are ambitious for you, but who are not competing with you. That is the value of a gig consultant.

Who’s there to support you?

Having been members of the C-Suite themselves, Mark and his colleagues understands the position you’re in and the challenges you face in your professional sphere. They may even have some empathy as to the impact it all has on your personal life as well. They bring mentoring, coaching, insight and knowledge to the table; a quietly confident and discreet confidante.

While the intricacies of technologies get more advanced from one generation to the next, business fundamentals are recognised to be nuanced, core pillars of understanding and diplomacy that your gig consultant can bring.

It’s a high but indefinable value that their own successes attest to, but the bottom line is that it’s experience led not opinion led knowhow that they bring to the C-Suite, and unless you’ve learned it yourself over time, the only way to get it is by getting the right quality of person into your business.

The good news, is that all you have to do, is ask.