In our culture, CEOs are often revered as super humans who have risen to the top by virtue of their abilities, leadership qualities and smarts.
But CEOs can pay a steep price for their status, power, and monetary rewards. They carry enormous weight on their shoulders. The pressure is endless and the stakes are always high. Every CEO knows the feeling of being up at 4 a.m., sweating bullets over a critical issue or decision.
“Lonely at the top” isn’t just a cliché or a feeling -- it’s a real condition. Many CEOs live in a bubble of isolation. They may be surrounded by people -- senior staff, friends, paid advisors, spouses -- but these folks are not always the best advisors because they’re on the playing field with the CEO and have their own interests to protect (e.g., job security, keeping the boss happy, etc.).
In my work as a Vistage group leader, I’ve heard countless stories of how lonely it can be at the top. Last week, I met with the CEO who told me, “I work 60-plus hours a week. I have no friends, no hobbies, and no one to talk with who understands what I go through.”
It requires tremendous ability and confidence to run a successful company. Yet, despite their super-human status, CEOs are human beings. They have doubts, fears, and insecurities. They have gaps in their experience and knowledge. They have biases and blind spots. In short, they’re fallible.
In today’s increasingly complex business landscape, CEOs – more than ever – need unbiased and straight feedback, perspectives, and advice on their critical decisions. That’s why CEO peer advisory boards like Vistage are so valuable. CEOs are the ones best equipped to understand what their fellow CEOs are going through. And in a neutral environment, where the only objective is to help one another, they can offer each other perspectives, ideas, and advice that they can’t get anywhere else. And this input can make a huge difference in their decisions and results.
One of my Vistage members (I’ll call him Patrick) is CEO of a successful ecommerce company. He and his wife’s cousin’s husband (I’ll call him Joe) started the company over a decade ago. Patrick was the visionary who shaped the company’s products and market. Joe became the VP of Operations and was Patrick’s confidant and moral support through the lean and hungry years.