Wearing the mantle of leadership is a daunting proposition.

And one of the most daunting aspects of it is the constant loneliness of it.

Even though you may be surrounded by other people.

Even though you may have resources at your disposal.

Even though, in the midst of the continual flurry of activity you engage in every day, you may not feel alone in any given moment.

Just as there are universal principles that determine what works and what doesn't work in a business, the same can be said about leadership. And as the first principle of entrepreneurship is the readiness to wear the mantle of "leader," the first practice of an enterprise leader is learning how to live with being alone.

Learning how to come to grips with it.

Learning how to accept the hollow reality of it, the tiny sound of your own voice in your self-induced vacuum--the sound of your voice when you know you have no idea what you're saying, when you have absolutely no idea whether or not the decision you're making is correct.

"Is this the right decision?" you ask yourself.

"Am I about to do something incredibly stupid?"

At this point, the feeling of loneliness is made worse because some part of you knows that there are probably people who are thinking how very stupid, how inept, how "unleaderlike" you are.

But leaders are always willing to risk making fools of themselves.

The willingness to risk how they look is one of those defining characteristics that makes them leaders--that separates the true leaders from the rest of us.

In the process of creating and building your business, you're going to risk yourself again and again.

The more risk you confront, the more challenged you will be as a leader.

Challenged to find the right words and make the right decisions.

Challenged to hold yourself and your people accountable for building and implementing system and producing targeted results, even when those targets may be unclear or constantly shifting.

And challenged, of course, by your constant feeling of being hopelessly alone.

Because, ultimately, when all is said and done, when you've made your best decision, the only one left at the end of the day is you.

The leader is always alone. And being alone can be no fun.

So what is it that sustains a leader through the loneliness?

Is it guts, grit, determination, or sheer stubbornness?

Is it fear of failure?

Is it the pot of gold waiting at the end of the rainbow?

While these may play a part, none of them, nor even the combination of all of them, is nearly enough.

It's got to be in your Dream, Vision, Purpose, and Mission.

It's got to be in your unyielding belief and commitment to the Great Result you provide to your customers and how it improves their condition that makes all the difference.

And it's in your understanding that working ON your business, building the systems that can deliver the Great Result, and continuously improving them to meet customer and other stakeholder needs in better and better ways, will sustain you through the loneliest of times.

Finally, it's the incomparable fun and aliveness of leadership that will pull you through it day after day.