Why Great Leaders Make Time Alone

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Recently, I’ve been given a rare opportunity to shadow a long term mentor of mine.

The CEO of one of the largest tech companies in the world, he’s famed for being one of the most charismatic leaders in the world of business.

I’d wanted to see him in action so he agreed me to follow him closely for seven days. To see how he genuinely spends his working week.

He’s a great motivational speaker. A real people person. And always there for advice and support.

So I’d expected to be busy.

And indeed I was. Lots of high pressure meetings. Endless conference and video calls with various offices. Drinks, dinners and even a charity raising event and TV appearance thrown in for good measure. The entire week went by at a frantic pace in a flurry.

Until that was on the Saturday.

On Saturday morning we met as normal at the office. However, this time it was literally empty. Other than saying hello and introducing me to the security guard, he spent the next four hours working on his own in total silence. Lunchtime and the early afternoon he spent walking (making calls) in the streets of the City of London which were practically deserted. And the early evening at a local library where we both spent several hours totally separate – admittedly catching up on emails but all alone in total silence.

At the end of day, I found out that this was no one-off. In fact, one day a week, my CEO friend mentioned he always made sure he found time to be totally alone.

Despite his normal, crowded, hectic public image he was insistent that one day a week the only person he would focus on would be himself.

For all of us, nowadays life is getting faster and busier. In the endless cycle of emails, meetings and phone calls, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. To feel like we need help from others to cope better. To build more and more relationships in the hope that they will one day become useful.

Yet sometimes the solution lies in the opposite direction. Being alone can sometimes be just as necessary as always being around others – despite how useful they may be.

Here are some reasons why great leaders find time alone.

It means less distraction

How often have you realised that your forgot to do something really important?

And promised yourself to do it the very next day?

Only to only be distracted by endless requests by others until the whole day goes by again?

Working with others is unquestionably important in being successful. However sometimes even being surrounded by the best possible people can result in focus constantly changing. Its why top performing businesses today now even insist on regular “off-sites” where smartphones are banned and workers are encouraged to get away and re-focus.

Great leaders understand that being alone often means getting more done. It allows the vital opportunity to execute our carefully thought out plans without interruption or distraction. To build laser like focus.

Great leaders build focus.

It re-energises 

Life can be rewarding, but can also be tiring.

In fact the bigger our ambitions, usually the bigger the energy demands.

Working harder and smarter to outdo the competition. Hitting the gym 5 days a week to stay in shape. Investing the time into our social lives to build fulfilling relationship

Yet like any elite athlete will tell you, part of utilising energy in the most efficient way is ensuring that we take time to rest. To allow us time to recover, refocus and go again. And although spending time with our loved ones can help us relax and have fun, often to allow us all to properly “switch-off” requires being alone.

To be silent and still.

Great leaders understand that planning time to rest properly is just as important as planning our actions and agendas. Although it can be tempting to keep going and work as hard as our bodies will let us, eventually it always catches up with us. The meetings, calls and after work drinks have to be balanced with solitude, stillness and relaxation.

Re-energising is the only way to build long term consistency.

Great leaders build consistency.

It allows time to think 

Our surroundings often influence more than we think.

Whether its the constant telephone ringing, chatter of other people or even the polite reminder from a colleague, sometimes even the simplest decisions become hard to make. The rushed and crowded environments we live in today throws endless amounts of information for us to process continuously. Even the most organised and resilient mind can be overwhelmed easily.

In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, thinking can become cloudy.

Big decisions require analysing carefully. They require dedicated time and focus. Just like a key client requires individual time to understand properly, key decisions require special thinking time alone with ourselves to reach the best outcome.

Great leaders understand that the quality of everything we do depends on the quality of the thinking we do first. And high quality thinking often comes when we are alone. In silence, with no distractions and no noise.

Being alone give us more time, space and freedom to think.

Great leaders make time to think.

Conclusion

Most of us spend our lives surrounding ourselves with others that can make us feel better.

But sometimes, its just as important to create sole time for ourselves.

Great leaders understand that although things like innovation, inspiration and collaboration are best found by being part of a great team, sometimes traits such as focus, reflection and purpose are best found when we are alone.

Creating the right balance between being around others and being alone can be critical to success.

Do you make time alone?

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