Thomas Friedman of the New York Times is traveling around the country giving talks, recording podcasts, and granting interviews based on his most recent book, Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations. You can listen to an excellent interview podcast with Friedman by clicking here.
Through his extensive research, Friedman is sharing what the future workplace will look like–both the challenges and the opportunities. What caught my attention was this statement: Thomas Friedman believes “the most prevalent disease in the country is social isolation. And yet we are more ‘connected’ than ever.”
Friedman reinforces one of the main themes that emerged from my research of interviewing 100 Sages for my book Leading with Wisdom: Sage Advice from 100 Experts. I, too, discovered that people are lonelier and feel more isolated than in the past. We may have numerous “friends” on Facebook, “followers” on Twitter, and “connections” on LinkedIn. Yet based on research, most people have fewer people they trust and can depend on in times of crisis. There circle of friends has shrunk, not increased. Interestingly, the founders of Twitter created the application because they were lonely. Check out the book Hatching Twitter to learn more.
If this is true, then leaders need to build a sense of community.
Leaders often think we have to have answers, to solve all of the problems, to make sure the work is getting done. While all of this is important, what many people want from us is to just listen. Be there. Be present and make them feel as if they matter.
Since I am researching this topic for a paper to present at a national conference, I will be writing more about this topic in future posts. Now that I am focused on this aspect of building community to overcome social isolation, I find examples and stories everywhere I look. I will be sharing my insights so that you are aware of this as you lead wherever you may go.
I often ask participants in my leadership classes and workshops this question:
If people are feeling isolated and are lonely, then what do they want and need from you as their leader?
TIP: Pretend everyone has a sign around their neck that says: Make me feel important.