Founder & Leader loneliness and the desire to be recognised.
One of the things I’ve struggled with over the years is my desire to be recognised for the work I am doing.
Examples of this range from the desire for people to like my LinkedIn statuses all the way to the desire for people I work with to thank me for my work.
I’ve searched for recognition and when I’ve not received it, it’s held me back.
I’ve learned that in certain spaces I might be recognised, thanked or acknowledged for my work, yet in other areas it is unrealistic and unfair of me to expect that.
For a long time I really wanted my team at Sanctus to recognise what I’d done in creating the business. I really wanted someone to turn around and say; “You know what James, thank you so much for creating this company, without you, we wouldn’t be here, we wouldn’t have a job. Thank you for all you’ve done”
I really really wanted someone to say that, and part of me probably still does.
And the truth is, people have said that to me on our team. People have acknowledged me, recognised my role in all of the weird mess of starting something new. Even when people have, I still didn’t fully take it or receive the acknowledgement I still chased something more.
I realised too that my expectation to be thanked for my work really didn’t acknowledge the great privilege I have in the position I am in as a Founder and business owner. I was expecting my dedicated team, who work hard to deliver Sanctus Coaching into the world every day to thank me for the very fact that they work hard for our mission. I realised how privileged and warped that was, and whilst I still hold the desire to be recognised for my part in that, I also realised that it’s not just me who deserves to be recognised and acknowledged. And how too, if I look around at what I have, maybe I don’t need that recognition at all.
I realise that I can’t expect others to validate what I am doing. I can’t survive on LinkedIn status likes or the odd nice message from someone. I have to give it to myself. I have to develop the inner support system where I don’t need others to tell me I’m doing a good job. I can give that to myself.
I’ve also learned that as a Founder you get gratification and reward in different ways. I’ve got a book deal with Penguin and I’ve been able to design my own role in the company so that I could spend time on writing, thought leadership and public speaking. That’s the reward I get.
I find the perpetual loneliness of being a founder quite exhausting though and it’s a battle I constantly live with. I deeply want to be on the team and to belong in the company I started, yet there’s always something different, there’s always some way in which I feel like I don’t quite fit in.
And it’s asking a lot of people to expect them to do their day job and be empathetic towards the founder or leadership in a company. After a lot of reflection, I think it’s asking too much probably in a startup environment where people already have too much to do. It’s unfair to then ask team members to manage their managers too.
I’ve come to accept a little more the isolation of being in a founder or a leadership position and have begun looking for the connection and conversation I need in other spaces, typically with mentors or friends who are also founders too.
I know many Leaders feel lonely or isolated. Founders, first-time managers, CEOs, Execs - it’s a big problem. I’ve learned that I really need quite a lot of support around me. If I’m not well supported myself, if I don’t have mentors or advisors that occasionally put their hand on my shoulder and say well done, then I’m less likely to do that for others and I might crave it from people (my team) in the wrong spaces.
I don’t have all the answers on this, yet I’m definitely noticing a need for recognition comes up more and more and I am much more aware of it now. I know too how tired I can begin to feel when I haven’t had a dose of connection from someone in my support network.
The moral of this story for me is that we all need support around us, whether thats coaching, therapy, mentors, peers, family and friends. Yet I think if you’re in a leadership position of any kind you have to professionalise that support and it’s an absolute must for you to do your job well.
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