No need to be lonely at the top

How to avoid saying things under stress that alienate others

Usually, about three months after I start working with a client, his or her guard drops down and the façade that the person has it all together, and has all the answers, wanes away.

By this time, I’ve earned the person’s trust because the person understands I will not judge him or her, nor will I try to control the person and take over his or her position by giving unwanted advice. Earning trust is a great moment for me, because I know the person is beginning to go deeper to find his or her inner voice and gut knowing.

When this happens, the person begins to hear his or her inner voice in a new way, as well as connect with other people more genuinely. This builds trust in an organization and keeps the leader from feeling lonely at the top. While it doesn’t flatten out the organization in terms of titles, it creates a more authentic connection and invites the same openness and honesty in return, ultimately leading to trust.

It sounds so easy, so why doesn’t this occur regularly? Most executives are moving so fast to create results from their E.G.O. (Edging their Greatest self Out), they do not take the time to connect with themselves at a deeper level. They often do not really listen to themselves, so what they blurt out often is not what they intend to say. Those around them often forget about the pressure they are under to meet the goals, and therefore take their sometimes intense personalities personally. This creates loneliness for the leader, who was already disconnected from himself or herself; now that leader has an even greater loneliness because he or she is unintentionally intimidating and alienating others.

I will never forget the time a client made this all so very clear to me. He was running late for a meeting we had mid-afternoon. He got caught in traffic and called me to let me know he would not be on time. As he was explaining, he started to raise his voice with me and asked me, “Why am I driving to your office anyway? I’m a busy man and don’t need to be stuck in traffic!” In the moment, I wondered if he forgot he set the time and location because he did not want to spend the extra fee to have me drive to him.

While my E.G.O. wanted to blurt out, “Really, did you forget you were too cheap to pay for me to come to you?” I heard my inner dialogue and knew that was not my greatest potential at work. With a deep breath, I got re-connected with my greatest self, dropped my defensive posture and said, “Drive safely; No worries. When you get here we can talk about the next time and place to suit your needs.”

Interestingly, when he arrived, he apologized for getting angry at me when it wasn’t my fault he was late. He admitted to me his impatience and tendency to “switch and blame it on others,” often intimidating his secretary, wife and employees. Because I did not react to him or become overly accommodating, he said he was able to witness his own reactive pattern and realize why he did it: He didn’t want to feel his own inadequacy or vulnerability.

Being lonely at the top is often due to our lack of clear intra-personal communication: hearing our own internal use of language or thought we have regarding a situation. If our intra-personal communication is judgmental and reactive and we don’t take the time to acknowledge it and shift it, we can be guaranteed that our E.G.O. will not only Edge our Greatest self Out, it also will alienate others. This creates the loneliness we feel.

Not only will listening to your inner dialogue keep you from being lonely at the top because you are not blurting out things that will alienate others, but also you will have a deeper sense of connection to yourself. When we are connected to ourselves, we don’t feel lonely because we are clear, calm and confident. Nothing creates loneliness more than not knowing what you want or need to do. The feeling of being lost creates a feeling of loneliness because you have lost touch with your inner guide.

Challenge: To help you from feeling lonely at the top, do these two things every day:

  1. Practice breathing more deeply, especially when you feel rushed and stressed.
  2. Begin to listen to your inner dialogue before you blurt something out.

Susan K. Wehrley is the author of the book “EGO at Work.” She is also the founder and president of BIZremdies, a business that helps companies and their executives collaborate, create and connect to their goals. Her website is She can be reached at (414) 581-0449 or

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Susan K. Wehrley is an executive coach and business consultant that aligns executives and businesses to their vision, values and goals. She is also a regular contributor to Forbes. You can email Susan at, (262) 696-6856 or visit her website for more details.

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