In difficult times, people look to their leaders to provide guidance, direction and hope. In providing such things, leaders are often required to make tough decisions, to take risks, and to take responsibility for actions that might have uncertain consequences.
As a result, leaders often find themselves feeling isolated and alone.
If you run a practice, you will undoubtedly know the feeling – especially in the current economic climate. The media blasts messages of doom and gloom, your business partner keeps presenting less than impressive figures, while patients continuously demand your undivided attention. And as the weight of responsibility grows, you find yourself becoming more and more isolated. You feel that you have no one to turn to.
The truth is, you are not alone and you are definitely not the first person to experience the loneliness of leadership. It is part of the job, and any practice owner who cannot endure profound levels of loneliness will not last long.
Obviously, it is hard to see how anybody could come to love that deep and profound sense of isolation that comes from the burden of responsibility. However, there are ways that you can diminish those feeling and manage your loneliness.
First and foremost, join a professional association or group that caters to people from similar backgrounds. By joining such associations you will realise that there are other people in similar situations with whom you can share ideas, discuss frustrations, and simply vent. People often underestimate just how therapeutic it can be to simply talk to someone who understands what you are feeling.
Keep a visual record of good times. When we feel isolated and alone, sometimes it is difficult to remember that things were not always as they are right now. By keeping a visual record of your good times, such as pictures, patient thank you letters, and so on, you can take a moment to reflect on the good times and take comfort from the fact that there will be good times once again.
Get out of the clinic. Sometimes, especially in extremely busy or stressful times, it is easy to become physically isolated being stuck inside while trying to deal with all the important issues. This only leads to an increased feeling of isolation. Get outside, take a walk around the building and talk to the people you work with. This can help you to refocus and re-establish your reasons for doing what you do.
Perhaps most importantly, have a life outside of work. Have a hobby or a sport, but make it something that requires your total concentration so that there is no room for thoughts about your practice. This way you will be forced to switch off, at least for a little while.
Last but not least, accept that you are not alone. Anyone in a position of significant responsibility will be faced with a similar situation. You are not the first and will not be the last. Simply knowing that others have been through similar experiences and survived can be comforting.