Alone at the top: How executive isolation can compromise leadership ability

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The authority and recognition that comes with being CEO often also means a leader is relatively isolated from his or her colleagues, and this can have some negative consequences, according to the Harvard Business Review.

Isolation can compromise one's ability to lead and make decisions most effectively, because both of these duties require having as much information about a situation as possible, according to the report. Senior executives, especially CEOs, often don't hear the unfiltered, candid descriptions of issues that go on in the organization. Time constraints typically account for the delegation of problem solving to other managers, but never telling leaders about the occurrence of such issues in the first place only maintains their isolation. 

The tendency among employees to withhold negative information or opinions from senior executives is natural in societies in which deference to authority is engrained. But a leader surrounded by a team of "yes-sayers," people who don't speak out against bad ideas or decisions, can create an echo chamber that amplifies their views instead of augmenting them, according to the report.

To avoid these negative outcomes, leaders can take the following several steps, according to the report. First, they must be aware that they might be operating in isolation. Then they need to step out of the bubble — the C-suite — and begin talking to people in various levels of the organization. They must explicitly ask for unfiltered feedback and to see raw data. Finally, the leader can tell his or her senior team to speak up when they disagree and challenge his or her thinking.

These adjustments might feel uncomfortable at first, but they will mitigate the effects of isolation and ultimately make leaders better at their jobs.

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