Six ways to avoid leadership exhaustion

With leaders around the globe facing extended periods of highly disruptive change due to the pandemic, and the World Health Organization (WHO) officially recognising ‘burnout’ as a result of chronic workplace stress – the days of organisations thinking burnout is not their problem are over.

As a leader, you have a responsibility not only to yourself and your family to avoid leadership exhaustion but also to your team. Because your team will look to you as an example of how they are expected to act, with this in mind, here are six ways to avoid leadership exhaustion.

1. Stay grounded to your purpose

When we’re overwhelmed with tasks, work can become mundane. We go through the motions trying to keep our head above water and forget why we’re doing what we’re doing in the first place.

Take some time to stop and focus on your impact by doing what you do each day. How does it make the lives of others better or easier? By grounding yourself in this way, you’ll start to find the meaning in your work again and find a purpose beyond yourself and your paycheck. Suddenly your to-do list will transform from a task list to a list of ways you can add value for your organisation and as a leader.

2. Delegate intentionally

When you feel that you might be languishing, it’s time to get real with your to-do list. Be honest around your priorities, realistic in your deadlines and delegate intentionally to those you know capable of managing the task without you or a significant amount of your input.

Now isn’t the time to micro-manage or try and exercise complete control in how the task is done. Trust the capability of your people, provide them with the necessary support and let them run with it. To not go down with your sinking to-do list, you need to train, trust, and then let go.

3. Know when to push and when to pull away

There will be times when you need to push yourself to complete a task or project by the deadline. Sometimes this pushing will lead you to your flow state, and you will get it done. But other times, you will push and push and get nowhere. You’ll become more stressed, and that will block you further.

Learn to recognise when to push and when to pull back from your work. Sometimes a break to clear your mind is all you need. Downtime is essential for high levels of productivity.

4. Leverage your most productive times

There will be times in the day when you naturally work more productively. A time when work feels effortless, ideas run freely, and you can concentrate better. It could be early mornings, late mornings or the later afternoon and evening.

Find your window and, where possible, schedule your work accordingly. This will allow you to get more work done in less time.

5. Take the time to upskill

Often leadership exhaustion happens during times of high growth or continuous change. Constantly finding yourself facing new challenges and situations, you can quickly feel out of your depth and you may even lose confidence in your abilities.

You need to take the time to equip yourself to handle what’s immediately in front of you and what’s coming ahead. This is where upskilling and getting support and guidance from an executive coach can really help. They can talk you through challenges, share their lessons, and be a sounding board when you need to brainstorm solutions.

6. Recognise when enough is enough

Each of us comes to a point where we can’t keep going. Review the five signs of leadership exhaustion again and learn to recognise the signs as they come up with you and your team. Ask for help when needed because you allow your team to do the same when you do this.

Asking for help and support as a leader is never a sign of giving up; it’s a sign of refusing to. Taking the right steps lets you visualise what a powerful and supportive organisational culture you can build simply by setting this as your practice.

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