There is an old expression: “It’s lonely at the top.“ This is generally understood to mean that higher status does not bring with it increased social success. This is true for many reasons. People at the top often feel a need to exude a certain aura, which can be perceived as exclusionary to their subordinates. At the same time these very subordinates contribute to the loneliness by placing their superiors on an imaginary pedestal which intensifies the seclusion. This isolation can create opportunities that you may not have considered in your own quest for success, and if you have reached the top already, there are ways to minimize the damage.
Let’s start with those of you who have not yet reached the top of the ladder, or who never intend to. Most of us will never be at the top of an organization. This is an obvious truth and often causes us to think of those at the top as some sort of strange creatures. It is the same way we think about people who are very attractive, very athletic or very smart. If you are very successful, there must be something different about you, and that leaves the rest us feeling awkward.
If you examine this rationally though, you will realize that successful people are not all that different than the rest of us. They may have worked harder, put in more effort and persevered through various challenges, but in the end, they are ordinary people. The success of an individual should not lead you to feel that they are inaccessible or somehow off limits to the rest of us. On the contrary, the fact that they are more successful than you are, means that there is a lot you can learn from them, and that you should try to gain access to. You will find, if you attempt to connect with successful people, that they are often generous in their willingness to share what worked for them and how they got to where they did.
Making a connection to a successful individual or individuals is advantageous both to you and to the individual you are connecting to. It will teach you things you never knew, as well as offering the person at the top, the ability to share and feel less isolated and disconnected from the rest of us.
So how do you go about making such a connection? First, keep in mind that most successful people are busy. Because of this, you should do everything in you power to make your attempts at connection as easy as possible for your target. Offer to take them out to lunch, or to have a coffee together, whenever it is convenient for them. Offer times that work for you, and see if they are open to this sort of thing (you will be surprised). Second, make it clear what your goal is, to learn as much as possible and to gain a better understanding of what it takes to be successful. Do not attempt to use this sort of relationship as a way of climbing the corporate ladder. You should climb the ladder through your work product and not, through attempts at bypassing the system. Third, don’t force the relationship. If it goes well right away, enjoy, these relationships can literally change your life. If it does not, find another role model.
For those of you at the top, consider the value of creating relationships with people at lower levels in your organization. You will have a better feel for the way different people see the business. You will gain insight and perspective, and generally improve the way your underlings view you. If you experience loneliness, taking time out to meet with people, even for brief periods of time, can go a long way.
Go ahead, try to work on making a connection with someone above or below you in your organization. Tell me how if went. I love to hear from you.