The loneliness of women leaders: 3 ways to warm up your leadership experience

Dear female leader, feeling alone is not the only way to survive leadership. Read on and see why.

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 In this article, we’re going to discuss:

  • The loneliness of managers in companies;
  • Identifying this feeling and its tendency to manifest more strongly among women;
  • Three ways to reduce its effects in female leadership.

In the corporate environment, there is an extremely competitive scenario at each step reached in the hierarchy of company management. Words such as ambition, scarcity and competition are recurrent among managers, which leads us to situations in which managers feel alone in their dilemmas and anxieties.

Women, in turn, end up suffering more from this type of feeling since they tend to be pioneers in their positions, face particular challenges and are afraid to admit doubt or insecurity in front of their male peers and managers.

In this article, we’ll explore more deeply the loneliness of female leadership and how to reverse this unfavorable scenario for women’s professional growth.

Managers’ loneliness: a recurrent phenomenon

When observing the corporate environment, we can affirm that competition and confrontation are constantly encouraged in executive leadership as a way to achieve more expressive results. However, this logic sometimes translates into a situation in which the managers finds themselves alone in their impasse, not being able to count on their leaders, colleagues or subordinates.

Their decisions, being taken unilaterally, can be evaluated as harsh, unpopular, which intensifies the feeling of loneliness in the manager and dissatisfaction in those around him.

The fear of relating to other people due to the fear unfitness (being labeled as weak or unfit for the position) reinforces a scenario of isolation of the leadership, making it little by little inaccessible and distant from the reality of their subordinates. This is repeated for subsequent hierarchical levels. It seems the only way to survive.

According to Forbes in the article “Why Loneliness Is A Problem For Leaders And What To Do About It?“, there are 4 big problems linked to the feeling of loneliness:

1. Loss of pleasure and desire to express enthusiasm.

2. Tension, fear and anxiety.

3. Loss of empathy and limited tolerance for one’s own imperfections.

4. Feeling of uncertainty and anguish.

Women and loneliness in leadership

In executive management loneliness happens for men, but it is disproportionately reinforced when women are the leaders. Especially in sectors with little female presence or when they reach hierarchical levels such as superintendence, directors or C-level, which is still rare (only 8.2% of women are CEOs of Fortune 500 as of April 2021).

According to the survey “Women in the Workplace 2020” by McKinsey Consulting, the loneliness of women managers ends up leading to a series of questions about their professional capacity and also in situations of embarrassment:

Women are much more likely to have their judgment questioned by others than women working in a more balanced environment (49 percent vs 32 percent), to be mistaken for someone more junior (35 percent vs 15 percent) , and being subjected to unprofessional practices and demeaning remarks (24 percent versus 14 percent). If they’re treated like that, it’s no wonder they’re forgotten about for promotion.

Therefore, the feeling of not being able to share their anxieties for fear of being misinterpreted by bosses and peers can make women overload in their activities, assume mistakes that could have been scaled and feel little technically and managerially trained for the position. The spiral of external and internal pressure, triggered by loneliness in their positions, can end up stunting the skills and potential of women executives around the world.

3 ways to warm up the experience of female leadership

Here are 3 actions you can take as to create closer and truer relationships in your work environment:

1.Strengthen communication

The first way to reduce loneliness is to try to communicate more. By establishing open and transparent Communication, leaders can encourage closer ties with team members and incorporate vulnerability as an inherent element in human relationships. Once they feel closer, the teams consequently become more solidary, empathetic and participative, also assuming part of the solution to corporate challenges. Challenges that are not just one person, but a team of people united and engaged around a common project.

2. Take care of your emotions

Putting aside times when you can de-stress and become more aware of your actions regarding others opens up ways to create closer relationships and truer connections. Performing physical exercises, undergoing therapy, practicing meditation or even having fun with our hobbies makes us feel mentally better, thus more prepared to deal with adversity and listen with empathy to those who access us every day.

3. Establishing alliances with other women

Keeping ties with friends in other sectors of activity, talking with former colleagues from previous companies or participating in networking meetings between women can be a way to create environments of trust and exchange of experiences. By sharing mistakes and successes in safe and reputable environments, it is possible to learn how other women face challenges similar to yours and feel more supported to share anxieties and fears that can paralyze you if they are not truly dealt with.

Continue this conversation with us!

Have you ever felt lonely at work? How have you dealt with it? What most distresses you?

Please share your thoughts with us in the comments. Talking about these topics that impact us on female leadership gets us closer as a community and helps us better face our daily professional routine.

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Co-authored with Sandra Milena Acosta

Sandra has worked for more than 12 years in the strategic planning and risk management of global financial institutions. Master in Economics from UFPR, graduated in Economics from UNICAMP and post-graduated in Digital Marketing from Kellogg Executive Education, she recently went through a career transition and is now a Writer of Chronicles, Children’s Literature and Poems. All of her work is available on her Instagram page (@sandramtca) and on Medium.

+About the Womanising Project:

As of 2021, 41 CEOs of the world’s 500 largest companies, the so-called Fortune 500, are women. That is 8,2%. In the environment of small and medium-sized companies, this number is difficult to measure, but it seems to us even smaller. The most curious thing is that we are half of the world’s population. So why are we so few in charge?

Womaninsing is a startup project in creation that aims to understand and propose solutions to the problem of very few women in the top management of institutions. Our articles and online content encourage discussions about problems faced by women in the professional environment and seek to teach what can be learned from previous mistakes and difficulties so that we can demand a greater balance between men and women in the world of work.

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