Leadership Is a Lonely Job

The best advice I have received came ten years ago during an offsite leadership discussion; it was this: “Leadership is a lonely job.”

I was a newly promoted senior manager, and I had just been through a tough transition period for this expanded job scope, both in mindset and working style. I was taking on larger team responsibility, dealing with broader stakeholders, attending more and more day and night meetings, and more frequently traveling internationally. I often woke up at midnight and asked myself, “Was my decision today correct? Is there anything I missed in the plan? Can I do better?”

It sounded a little sad when I first heard this advice, but it touched my heart immediately. I felt I was totally unleashed. I realized that the struggle I was experiencing is the journey for people who choose to be leaders.

Over the past ten years, I tried to interpret this advice again and again. I believe it means commitment. We, as leaders, see the need, define the goal, make the plan, and decide independently. We must use our heart to feel, use our mind to praise, put ourselves in others’ shoes, and think through every aspect to make a thorough plan to support the decisions we have made. We also need to be well prepared for whatever consequences arise—good or bad—for the project, the organization, the people who follow us, and ourselves. We are on our own as leaders; no one else can be blamed if the result is not as we expected.

It also means persistence. The goal or destination we want is not always easily accepted by our leaders, peers, or even our subordinates, because there are a thousand Hamlets in a thousand people’s eyes. Our words may sound crazy to them, our ideas may be disagreed with, and our plan may be questioned. We must follow our own heart, stay true to our original aspiration, and influence people from time to time, to prove ourselves and reach our destination. Do not give up! Resilience is one of the most important characteristics that successful women leaders have. Someday, what we have insisted on will embrace us in return.

It is my luck and honor to work in such a great company and grow my leadership career over the past 14 years. I have enjoyed this journey very much, and I hope every woman will lean in, appreciate what life has given to us, and shine in this world.