Navigating the complexities of climbing the corporate ladder

Award-winning executive coach provides tips in his new book


A Staff Reporter

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Published: Wed 12 Jun 2024, 10:30 PM

Award-winning executive coach Philippe Mathijs has worked with some of the biggest corporate names over the course of his 30-years of international experience. His latest book, How Not to Be Lonely At The Top, aims to create a resource that would provide valuable guidance to leaders and aspiring leaders.

Excerpts from an interview:

What inspired you to write “How Not To Be Lonely At The Top”?

The inspiration for “How Not to Be Lonely at the Top” came from my desire to help people navigate the often unspoken rules and complexities of climbing the corporate ladder. As professionals advance in their careers, they encounter numerous challenges and nuances that aren’t always openly discussed. I wanted to create a resource that would provide valuable guidance to leaders and aspiring leaders, helping them manage these situations more effectively.

As an executive coach and a leadership consultant, my mission is to assist individuals in becoming the best versions of themselves. Writing this book allowed me to extend my reach, offering insights and strategies that can make a significant impact on their professional development and leadership journeys.

How do you address the intersection of leadership and mental health in his book?

Throughout my career, I’ve faced difficult moments that have left lasting scars. During those times, I often wished I had someone to bounce ideas off of, just to reassure myself that I was on the right path and not losing my mind. “How Not to Be Lonely at the Top” delves into some of the struggles I’ve experienced, highlighting the importance of mental health in leadership.

In the book, I share my personal experiences and the lessons I’ve learned, offering insights into how leaders can manage their mental well-being while navigating their professional responsibilities. Additionally, I discuss how I’ve helped the individuals I coach address similar issues, emphasizing the importance of seeking support and maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

Moreover, I provide my readers with strategies to navigate corporate politics effectively. By understanding these dynamics and adopting practical approaches, leaders can better manage their mental health and foster a more supportive and productive work environment.

What sets “How Not To Be Lonely At The Top” apart from other leadership books currently on the market?

What sets “How Not To Be Lonely At The Top” apart is its practical, experience-based approach. Unlike many leadership books that delve into management theory, this book offers actionable tips that readers can implement immediately to make a tangible difference in their daily work. It’s grounded in real-life experiences—both my own and those of the people I’ve coached—which means the strategies are proven and effective.

Additionally, senior leaders in the industry who have reviewed the book have shared similar sentiments: “I thought I was the only one to think like that” and “I wish someone had told me what you share.” These insights reflect the book’s ability to resonate deeply with readers, making them feel understood and less isolated in their leadership journeys.

The book addresses the relationship between loneliness and risk-taking behavior among leaders. How might excessive risk aversion or risk-seeking tendencies impact financial outcomes, and how can leaders strike a balance?

As the saying goes, ‘fortune favors the bold.’ As a leader, what I consider ‘risk-taking’ must be influenced by both the company’s risk appetite, my personal inclinations, and the nature of the job. For example, individuals overseeing hospital operations or IT/Operations departments might be less inclined to take risks compared to those in sales, who might explore new approaches with customers. In short - Effective leadership balances risk-taking with prudence, considering company risk appetite, personal inclination, and job context, cultivating innovation while safeguarding against adverse outcomes through harmonizing these elements.

What are some actionable takeaways that business leaders can implement immediately from “How Not To Be Lonely At The Top”?

Prepare for tough conversations: What drains you is not the ‘what,’ but how you deliver it and the reaction it elicits. Whether it’s a positive like ‘I want a promotion’ or a negative like ‘sorry, but we have to let you go,’ both can provoke strong responses from the other person.

You don’t have to go it alone: If the most successful businesspeople have coaches or mentors, why don’t you? Despite the myth that having a coach implies inadequacy, it’s actually quite the opposite, as top coaches can be truly transformative.

How do you take care of yourself? Work exerts immense pressure on the mind and body. Just as we relax after physical exertion, what practices does the leader employ to relax their mind?

What are your upcoming plans/projects?

Our most significant upcoming project is a new, entirely unique program inspired by the book. This comprehensive program will delve into various aspects in much greater depth, empowering individuals to transform into significantly different leaders not only in their professional roles but also in their personal lives. The program will explore the triggers that affect us, delve into understanding our identities, and examine the profound impact these triggers have on our brains and lives. It will then progress to teaching strategies for controlling these triggers, ultimately enabling participants to evolve into ultimate leaders who possess the ability to determine how to react, rather than simply what to react to.

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