How to Become an Otherish Leader

It’s lonely at the top because leaders lack otherishness.


Otherish leaders focus on the success and well-being of others.

You’re lonely because:

#1. You wear a mask.

Masks prevent people from knowing you.  If people saw the real you, they wouldn’t follow.

Otherishness requires vulnerability.

#2. You believe you’re special.

How much time are you spending on the floor vs. in the office?

You don’t see your own weaknesses, frailties, and needs.

#3. You choose results over relationships.

Connecting isn’t a priority for most stressed out managers or leaders.

You’re lonely because you don’t have time for people. You believe that getting stuff done is all that matters.

#4. Everyone wants something from you.

You’re skeptical about the motives of others. It’s hard to imagine that people are being helpful because they’re generous.

Otherishness requires trust.

#4 is my personal ‘favorite’.

5 practices of otherish leaders:

Thinking about yourself is healthy in small strokes. But don’t make an art out of self-focus.

  1. Train your eye to notice good in others.
  2. Brag about others when you feel like bragging about yourself.
  3. Notice the impact of your presence on others. How do people feel after spending time with you?
  4. Speak with gratitude when mentioning accomplishments.
  5. Offer TO help, more than asking FOR help.

Evaluate and develop otherishness:

You can’t evaluate your own otherishness. You’ll either be too hard on yourself or too generous.

Self-awareness and self-perception require others.

  1. Ask individuals to rate your otherishness on a scale of 1 to 6. (Anonymous rating.)
  2. Design assessment questions based on the above “Five practices of otherishness.” For example, “How likely am I to notice good in others?” 1:6
  3. Ask for input. Tell people you’re working to focus more on others and less on yourself.
  4. Ask, “What might I do that would cause you to think that I’m focused on the success of others?”

Which of the reasons for loneliness in leadership is your ‘favorite’?

How might leaders focus less on their success and more on the success of others?

Bonus material:

5 Reasons it’s Lonely at the Top (WSJ – subscription required)

Not Lonely at the Top (NYT)

This is How to Prevent Loneliness as a Leader (Fast Company)

Humility and the Development and Repair of Social Bonds: Two Longitudinal Studies (Research Gate)

Power decreased loneliness by reducing the felt need for affiliation with others. (NYT)