Are you stuck on Leadership Island?

One of the pitfalls that we find happens for leaders, and especially early founders, is stranding oneself on Leadership Island. It can come in a few forms: being singly focused on the work of getting an enterprise off the ground, into profitability or hitting that next milestone; putting all your time into the business and not taking the time to engage in the business community; feeling the natural isolation of being the one in charge of your business’s employees; or a combination of all of them and more.

The pursuit of success, the drive to accomplish and the weight of responsibility can all make work the prevailing focus in your mind. The winter months also tend to provide an easy excuse to stay inside, stay online and not get physically out in the community. It is not, however, the best approach long-term for the success of your business and your impact as a leader.

Entrepreneurship can be an isolating endeavor and it’s important to pick one’s head up from the work and make sure you are connecting outside of the office. If you find yourself feeling disconnected or think you’ve fallen into a professional network rut of sorts, here are a few ways that you can help get off the island.

Networking events are the obvious starting points, whether through industry groups, regional resources, or networking organizations. Beyond meeting new business leaders, the opportunities that local organizations can provide to business owners are astounding, serving your growth well now and in the future.

Do you think you’d need something more structured? Educational events focused on leadership best practices, specific topics and current trends can provide the productive framework to energize your mind and connect with others on a shared wavelength. By having a highlighted topic, you may find yourself building relationships with leaders you may not normally connect with in your day-to-day work but find common ground around a specific concept. Those events also tend to be attended by growth-minded leaders who are actively putting in the work to achieve the same results you are striving for. Not only that, the content can help you with the challenges you’re facing just as much as the connections you’ll make will benefit you.

For more personal but professionally focused connections, it goes without saying that leader peer forums tend to be amazing touchpoints that build bridges off the island. When you find the right people who are the right fit and who can offer the right perspectives, you can create strong, enduring connections that nurture you professionally and personally for the rest of your life.

Founding a company, holding a seat in the C-Suite, or leading a team does not need to be — and shouldn’t be — an isolating endeavor. Even if you feel that you are currently well connected, you’ll be surprised by how finding opportunities that keep both your network and your mind expanding help your business grow. The outcome of becoming more involved in these activities is that you will not just make connections, but create a fertile community that will enlighten you, support you, motivate you and grow with you. 

Bob Stein

Associate Vice Chancellor for Innovation & Entrepreneurship