Almost a third of business owners (30%) do not enjoy being a leader in the current economic climate, according to a survey of 600 business leaders carried out by training firm The Leadership Team.
The worrying statistic comes at a time when most businesses desperately require strong leadership to guide businesses through the economic downturn.
With challenges around access to finance, skills and export markets, owners are finding the mounting pressures too much to handle.
Over half of those asked described their work/life balance as okay, with 35% labelling it good and 12% very good. Some 51% of business owners are working more than 50 hours a week with 4% working as many as 80 hours.
Asked what they felt they were best at, just 4% of owners said financial management while 41% opted for strategy, 31% opted for managing people, 14% said sales and 10% marketing.
Almost a quarter of respondents said their business was currently either treading water or declining slightly. Over half said that their firm was experiencing small growth while 25% said their company was growing rapidly.
Looking ahead, only 4% of owners were very optimistic about the prospects for the UK economy in the next three years, while 41% were optimistic. However, 27% saw no change, while 22% were pessimistic and 6% very pessimistic.
Asked who they most admired in business, 25% said Virgin tycoon Sir Richard Branson, 8% opted for former Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy while 5% chose Sir Alan Sugar.
Many other business leaders received single mentions including Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, the late Apple founder Steve Jobs, retail bosses Sir Stuart Rose and Justin King, golfer Jack Nicklaus and former Dragons Den star James Caan.
The only women leaders to receive a mention were Dame Anita Roddick, the late founder of the Body Shop, and Chrissie Rucker, who launched The White Company.
Jerry Hopkins, founder of The Leadership Team, said: “The survey’s findings show that many business owners are finding life tough and lonely at the top in the present economic climate and the majority see either no change or things getting worse over the next couple of years.”
“However, it is also clear that business owners believe that having a strong vision, being able to maintain focus in difficult conditions and building a strong team around them will be hugely important in determining just how successful they are over the coming years.”