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VIP Corner: Robert Kaplan on why senior executives need a support group

SmartBrief is partnering with Big Think to create a weekly video spotlight in SmartBrief on Leadership called “VIP Corner: Video Insights Powered by Big Think.” This week, we’re featuring Robert Kaplan, a professor at the Harvard Business School.

“It’s lonely at the top.”

Though perhaps a clichéd sentiment among the top-brass, professional isolation can be a very real problem that can cause senior-level executives serious trouble along the way, said Robert Kaplan, a professor at the Harvard Business School.

“You don’t have that many people above you … and so therefore many of the decisions you are ruminating over affect all those people below you. And you feel like, ‘Boy, I’d love to talk to them about it, but I don’t think I can,’ ” Kaplan said.

Instead, Kaplan recommends that bosses take proactive steps to cultivate a support group of professional peers who can provide authentic feedback about decisions and work performance. When leaders have support groups, the top isn’t so lonely anymore, and senior executives can make better-informed business decisions.

“It’s when you are isolated that you make poor decisions. If I’ve got nobody to talk to and am under a lot of pressure and I have to make a tough decision … I am probably more likely to make a poor one,” Kaplan said.

Big Think is a forum in which top experts explore big ideas and core skills defining the 21st century. Learn more from its editors, fellows and guest speakers.