The Lonely Factor of Leadership


Being a leader means dealing with loneliness. So how can you find a way to unpack, unload, and share without damaging others?

We were given a very special gift about 17 years ago.  It is a framed, signed and numbered artist print by the artist, Mort Kunstler, titled “The Loneliness of Command—General Robert E. Lee.”  It hangs on the wall above my desk in my home office.  It’s a great reminder of a truth about the loneliness in leadership.

General Robert E. Lee was a commander.  With the position of commander came an immense responsibility.  General Lee certainly proved himself equal to the task, but in quiet, solitary moments—especially when faced with the potentially deadly decisions of war—the burden and heartache of command was unquestionably lonely.

Leadership insinuates loneliness to many leaders. With every journey in leadership we make comes the predictable amplification in loneliness.  The higher we climb in leadership, and the more authority and responsibilities we get, the lonelier we become.  We can’t share everything we experience in leading with some of our team because some of it isn’t beneficial to them.  We can’t be completely open about what we encounter or wrestle with because there’s a confidentiality issue, sometimes.  Being a leader means dealing with loneliness. So how do you do this?  How do you find a way to unpack, unload, and share without damaging others?

Despite how common it is for leaders to experience loneliness, few leaders anticipate such feelings and fewer still know how to deal with them when they arise.  Sometimes we feel alone in the world.  Jesus Christ understands this feeling.  In a very human sense, He was alone.  But Jesus’ loneliness reached its apex the moment when He became sin for us.  Read and consider 2 Corinthians 5:21.   In Matthew 27:46 we read about the Cross, and Jesus Christ crying out, “…My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?”  Jesus knew supreme rejection and He knew loneliness.  Jesus knew more about loneliness than we can ever imagine.

General Lee was a leader and a commander that carried a heavy burden every day.  In his hands, many believed, rested the hopes of many people.  Despite his unmatched reputation and accomplishments, General Lee was a humble man who trusted the future to God.  General Lee once said, “I can only say that I am nothing but a poor sinner, trusting in Christ alone for salvation.”  With “the peace that passes all understanding,” General Robert E. Lee gracefully endured the loneliness in leadership.

In your leading, you will experience and confront loneliness from time-to-time.  But, trust this, Jesus Christ is the One that will never abandon you and He will be there for you to confide in and trust completely.  Hold that truth close to your heart.

Suggested Prayer: “Dear Heavenly Father, Thank You for Your mercy and grace.  I pray for Your mighty hand to be on my shoulder as I confront some days and hours of loneliness.  I trust You, Father, for all that I need.  I pray for Your help.  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, my Savior and my Lord.  Amen.” 

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