What to Do When You are Lonely in Leadership

By June 27, 2013Church, Leadership


If you are in leadership long enough, there will be days when you simply feel you are all alone and no one understands. You may feel overwhelmed. Unappreciated. Misunderstood. And alone in all of it.

Christian leader, don’t think of yourself as “less spiritual” on those days. Think of yourself as human. Remind yourself that Elijah felt that way at times. So did the Apostle Paul. Jesus sweated drops of blood in his humanity.

Lonely days in leadership will come. I wrote about them HERE. I also addressed this issue for pastors HERE.

Most likely those are emotional responses to your circumstances and not based on truth, but they are real. But, what do you do in those days?

Here are 7 suggestions:

Talk to God – Be honest with your loneliness. That’s what Elijah did. Better yet, listen to God. Hear His perspective. It trumps yours.

Rest – These days tend to come more often when we are tired. On a recent day like this I stopped and took a short nap. I was energized when I returned. On more severe times, you may need to get away for a longer period. Schedule a night at home and go to bed early. I also find that sometimes it isn’t rest, but exercise I need. When I am not rested or as healthy as I could be it makes me feel more tired easily and more quickly overwhelmed with life.

Phone a friend – I have a few friends I can always count on to encourage me. Granted you have to be that kind of friend to have one and the time to build those friendships is before you need them, but, “That’s what friends are for.” (Now you’re singing that song aren’t you?) Allow your friend to help you see a proper perspective on your day. It’s probably better than you are currently feeling.

Plan some time away – Put it on your calendar now to get away later. It could be for an afternoon, a day, or a week, depending on what you can do or need to fully restore yourself emotionally. The realization that you are actually going to have some down time often fuels you for the present. Plus, you’ll need the rest then even more.

Dream a little – I like to stop what I’m doing and dream about some new venture, some change of pace, something crazy I’d love to see God do in or through me. Dreaming stretches the imagination and fuels your energy and excitement. Plus, you’ll never dream bigger than God can do.

Evaluate – How often do these feelings occur and how long do they generally last? Are there areas of your life that are leading to feelings of loneliness? Are you isolating yourself from others? Do you agree to do more than you can physically do? Do you have a problem saying no? Do you need to get better at delegating and sharing leadership? Are there really more people around you than your feelings indicate? Are things as bad as your emotions tell you they are? (They usually aren’t.) Depending on your honest answers you can evaluate how deep these feelings are and whether or not you need to seek more immediate or long term help. (There is nothing shameful in a leader seeking counseling or coaching, whichever is needed most.)

Look big picture – Again, things probably aren’t as bad as they appear. There are probably people around you who care and are willing to help. You are likely doing better than you feel you are right now. But, regardless, leaders have to be the ones primarily thinking beyond today. You have to get beyond these emotions to where you are leading people who are looking to you for leadership. What’s the vision you are trying to accomplish? You may not be where you want to be, but is it still a worthy vision? Has God called you to attempt it? Remember it’s a marathon not a sprint in accomplishing the best things in life. Find the help you need. Reenergize. Grow through the experience. Move forward.

It’s easy to produce mediocrity. It takes patience, endurance, and weathering the periods of loneliness in leadership to produce excellence. Which are you striving to achieve with your leadership?

If you’re a lonely leader today, I’m praying for you. Send me an email if you want me to pray for you by name.

What do you do on the days you’re lonely in leadership?

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 9 Comments

  • maranatha says:

    True; being the leader is a tough place to be. That's why I love Dag Heward-Mills' "Art of Leadership, 2nd Ed." It enumerates different characteristics and attributes of a great leader, as well as a poor one. Leadership is an art, not necessarily a skill or a gift. Check out this book and be blessed! 🙂

  • kmac4him says:

    I REDIRECT the strong feeling of loneliness off of me and on to God. I will be lonely, yes, but loneliness in play in my life, taking full focus of my soul means I have an unholy alliance with my needs and I need an adjustment to bring Jesus back to the center of my soul. He is my best friend! He Is always with me. I know that humanity, human beings and the things of this world will never satisfy me. Human beings can’t meet our needs when we were born with eternity written on our hearts. Nothing will satisfy our loneliness like Jesus can. In remembering this during my bouts with loneliness, I verbally unto God, once again, place all my human expectations, hopes, dreams, wants desires in His hands, because I know that if I am in a season of loneliness, it is purposefully working something really good in my character. I have gotten to the place in my life where “completely” God’s is not always expected to “feel” good to my flesh, but is good for my spirit and His Kingdom. I can sit in the loneliness of my spirit or I can redirect it by posturing myself in God, leaning into His Sovereign Sway.
    Psalm 62: 5-8
    My soul, wait only upon God and silently submit to Him; for my hope and expectation are from Him. 6 He only is my Rock and my Salvation; He is my Defense and my Fortress, I shall not be moved. 7 With God rests my salvation-my glory; He is my Rock of unyielding strength and impenetrable hardness, and my refuge is in God! 8 Trust in, lean on, rely on, and have confidence in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts before Him. God is a refuge for us (a fortress and a high tower). Selah [pause-calmly think of that]!

    Twitter: kmac4him

  • I always find great tension between "finding good friends outside the church" vs, what feels like a more idealistic approach, and helping to create the healthy environment within the church. I understand both ides, and have often followed the advice of building my friendships outside the church. However, with that said, I still feel very inclined to follow and idealistic point of view and develop honest and transparent relationships within. Perhaps i haven't been "hurt" enough by a broken trust yet…but then again, I feel that those we serve are more than just our constituents and I more than someone who is "hired" for them. We are family and must learn to find comfort and connection within that family. It's a case of "both, and". Sorry, probably wrote too much, but that whole "you can't have friends within the church" has never sat well with me. 🙂

  • Joe Lalonde says:

    You're right Ron. Leadership has it's lonely days but we can also find comfort and friendship through leadership. When I begin to get lonely leading, I reach out to other leaders I've connected with. This allows me, and them, to share their hearts with each other.

  • Preacher's Wife says:

    This is so very true. As humans, we thrive where we have strong relationships and people encouraging us. God made us, Pastors and families included, this way! Being a Pastor and having friends in the church just dosen’t mix. We all know (if we are Pastors) that can lead to disaster on a number of levels. I am extremely blessed to have 2 women I can lean on in very difficult times. And in turn, they can lean on me. In my opinion, it is essential to have a friend outside of the church. Not to share church secrets and problems, but just to hang out with. Someone who will just treat you like a friend, instead of a Pastor. I know everyone does not have this, and it may be one of the reasons Pastors and families just burn out. My heart goes out to those people becuse the fact is, we have the same needs as everyone else. Your posts, Brother Ron, are a help to many of us in the minsitry, and are often what we need to make it through just one more week.

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