The Power of Community:

A Harvard Business Review study found that half of CEOs reported feeling lonely in their jobs. But is this really a bad thing? Is it abnormal? Since the beginning of time, leaders have felt isolated. The term “lonely at the top” exists for a reason. So, is it really that bad? Is it even changeable? The study goes on to reveal that 68% of these leaders believed loneliness was hindering their performance. So, the answer is yes—this is a problem.
Loneliness is not just a personal issue; it’s a professional and organizational problem. It affects everyone within an organization. If half of our leaders feel lonely, and 68% of them believe it’s hindering their performance, we must ask: Is there any truth to this? Are there facts to back up this “feeling”?
In fact, loneliness does hinder the performance of leaders. Here are five reasons why leaders who lead and live in a community outperform their competition:

Fact Number One: Leaders Who Are in a Community Are Twice as Likely to Achieve Their Goals

According to the Center for Creative Leadership, leaders in a community are twice as likely to achieve their goals. Think about that for a moment. You are twice as likely—two times more likely—to achieve a goal, a vision, or a dream for your organization.
This reminds me of when we were kids, going to county fairs or carnivals. Do you remember those booths that offered “buy one ticket and get a free shot”? Maybe it was basketball shots or throwing rings around bottles. They would say if you buy one, you get a second shot. You’d throw the first ring and it would fall off, but not to worry because you had another shot. This is what it’s like to be in a community: it’s not just having one shot at solving a problem or achieving an opportunity. Every single person you gather around you gives you another shot to think about, solve, and execute the problem. This is why leaders who are in a community are twice as likely to achieve their outcomes.

Fact Number Two: Leaders Who Are Part of a Community Reduce Lost Time and Revenue

According to Aetna, every difficult conversation avoided due to isolation costs approximately $7,500 and results in seven lost workdays because of unresolved issues and ongoing conflicts. Many leaders avoid critical conversations because they try to work out how to have them in isolation. Every time they skip one, they lose money and time, which affects their bottom line.
Years ago, I made the mistake of signing up for a triathlon and, one week later, also signing up with friends for a century bike ride—a 100-mile ride. The triathlon went great, but six days later, my body wasn’t fully recovered, and by the time we reached 70 miles on the bike ride, I was out of gas. My legs were on fire, and I was exhausted. My friends said, “Don’t worry, just draft behind us!” Drafting, something we see birds and professional athletes do, cuts the wind resistance, making it easier to trail with less effort.
This is what being in a community is like when making decisions and solving problems. You have the ability to draft—others help you cut through challenges, come alongside you to think things through, and ultimately, you don’t have to carry the weight of decisions and processes all by yourself.

Fact Number Three: Leaders Who Are Part of a Community Demonstrate Greater Output

In 1592, William Shakespeare said, “You can be a jack of all trades and a master of none.” This often rings true for executive leadership. One of our greatest challenges, and why we don’t achieve greater output, is the belief that we need to master everything. As a result, we end up mastering nothing. Gallup research found that when leaders engage with other senior leaders, they can achieve a 27% increase in output. Imagine the difference in your business if you were producing 27% more output—more sales, more leadership, more development, more outcomes. This is the power of relationships.
I experienced this firsthand in my last startup. We had raised tens of millions of dollars, and I was due to deliver our first board report. I was overwhelmed and spent countless hours trying to figure it out. Finally, I approached our CFO, Steve, who came from the portfolio company. I admitted I had no clue how to build the report. He laughed, and by the next day, we had a comprehensive 30-page deck from a previous project. Our board was impressed. This was a defining moment in my leadership journey. I realized that not only is my output higher when I delegate, but I can also deliver more because I have multiple people contributing to the same goal. Imagine the output we can achieve when we bring our teams together.

Fact Number Four: Leaders Who Are Part of a Community Make Better, More Informed Decisions

Mark Twain famously said, “It ain’t what you know that gets you into trouble; it’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” A recent McKinsey study found that leaders are 1.5 times more likely to make better-informed decisions when they are part of a community. Why? Because there’s only so much you can know on your own. Maybe you’re great at sales, marketing, or culture, but everyone has gaps in their knowledge. When we are part of a community, we can tap into the expertise of others rather than relying solely on our own limited knowledge.
In my last company, for the first time, I hired a Chief Revenue Officer. Previously, as CEO, I handled all the sales, marketing, and other tasks. My sales strategy was simple: if I could get in the room, I could close the deal. But that approach doesn’t scale. When my Chief Revenue Officer joined, he introduced me to numerous acronyms and concepts—MQLs, SQLs, CAC, churn—that I had to Google just to keep up. Learning these processes allowed me to scale more effectively and make incredibly informed decisions. It’s crucial to consider what unknown factors are affecting your business that you think you know but don’t. Identifying and addressing these can significantly impact your bottom line.

Fact Number Five: Leaders Who Are Part of a Community Innovate Faster

The Harvard Business Review reported that companies engaged in collaborative innovation projects can bring products to market 20% faster than those relying solely on internal R&D. This statistic underscores the significant advantages of collaboration in accelerating product development and enhancing innovation.
I experienced this firsthand during the COVID-19 pandemic when we created a virtual product to serve event companies that had to shut down. The challenge was navigating the unknown world of virtual collaboration, which led us to an unexpected and transformative decision: collaborating with our competitors. Initially, the idea of working with competitors seemed daunting, but it turned out to be a game-changer.

In this collaborative effort, we didn’t just share ideas; we shared challenges, solutions, and built deep relationships. Each company brought unique insights and expertise to the table, allowing us to tackle problems more effectively and efficiently. As we look back at that time, we recognize that without this collaboration, we would not have been able to bring these innovative solutions to the market so quickly. The complexity of the tech world during such an unprecedented time required a level of cooperation that went beyond traditional competitive boundaries.
When considering collaboration, it’s essential to think beyond your internal teams and include your competitors in your strategic vision. While you might not engage in direct, one-on-one discussions with your competition, there are valuable opportunities to observe, ask questions, and learn from shared customer experiences. This approach can provide critical insights and foster innovation.

As a leader, engaging with a broader community, including competitors, can significantly accelerate innovation. Embracing this mindset means recognizing that your community isn’t limited to your internal team or immediate network. Sometimes, the most valuable insights and breakthroughs come from those you consider competition. If managed correctly, these relationships can be incredibly beneficial.
In summary, the power of collaboration, even with competitors, can lead to faster, more effective innovation. By embracing a community-oriented approach, leaders can drive their organizations forward, harnessing the collective strength of diverse perspectives and expertise. Don’t be afraid to realize that your community could include your competition—when done right, this can lead to remarkable outcomes.
At CEO Life, we’re on a mission to connect 50,000 leaders around the world. Why? Because we absolutely believe in the research mentioned above. We know that isolation increases stress, reduces innovation, and lowers output. The most powerful thing happens when you gather in a community: you receive support, encouragement, and upliftment from others who understand your struggles and share your desire to change their world and the world around them. We’re excited to get to know you. Join CEO Life below.

Josh Hotsenpiller

President CEO LIFE



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