Leadership Exhaustion – Sonia McDonald

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Determination and perseverance are two critical leadership skills that every great leader must possess. But sometimes, no matter how much willpower and drive you may have, there are times when even the most dedicated leader will be tempted to just give in and give up. Unless you learn how to cope with the stress that comes along with the constant change and unending demands that all leaders must deal with on a daily basis, leadership fatigue, and eventual failure, is a genuine threat.

There are, of course, a number of signs that can alert you that you are coming close to your personal limit. You may be close to your personal breaking point if you’ve experienced any of these dangerous signals: avoiding responsibilities and those who hold you accountable, losing your vision, losing focus of the big picture and getting bogged down by minor details or losing control and becoming annoyed and angry over insignificant things. Left unchecked, leadership fatigue might even lead to self-destructive behavior such as subconsciously sabotaging important relationships or neglecting your own personal self-care.

The key to maintaining our energy and our ability to make sound decisions, and act upon them, is to learn how to manage those things in our daily lives that literally drain us of our energy and enthusiasm. In order to avoid leadership fatigue, we must learn how to eliminate or minimise these “power drainers” before they reach a “critical mass.”

Observing how highly visible, and extremely effective, leaders from around the world avoid fatigue can be helpful in learning how to better manage those things that sap our energy and resolve.

One way that great leaders manage their stress and energy levels, while increasing the productivity and creativity of their team, is through delegation. While it’s tempting to try to do “it all” as leader, you must accept that your energy is not limitless. Learning to “let go,” and delegate will not only help you to reduce your leadership fatigue so that you have more time and energy to spend on other, more important tasks, it will also allow your team to put their talents and energy to the best use.

Jack Welch, Chairman and CEO of the Fortune 100 Company General Electric, was known for his endorsement of the power of delegation as a tactic to reduce leadership fatigue and boost employee morale. In a 2005 speech at Northwestern Kellogg School of Management, Welch continued to encourage leaders to avoid the urge to micromanage and instead, “err on the side of delegation. It makes your employees love being at the company and helps them flourish.” In addition to reducing your stress and leadership fatigue, delegation increases engagement and satisfaction while producing original solutions and increasing performance.

The 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, is another world leader that practices delegation to get more done and reduce his stress by reducing his workload. According to an article at 99u, President Obama has over 100 assistants that help to keep him on task, briefed and informed so that his time is free to devote to more critical tasks throughout each day. This is a sharp increase in delegation from just 50 to 75 years ago when former U.S. President Harry S. Truman needed only 12 assistants to get the job done.

President Obama doesn’t stop at delegation to help him manage stress and keep leadership exhaustion at bay. In addition to delegation, the President also manages his stress and wards off fatigue by setting aside time at the end of each evening to get a head start on the next day’s work. He practices good self-care by making time to exercise each day. He also takes time to renew his spirit and energy by spending quality alone time with his daughters in the evening during their dinner. 

The President has also used a tactic to reduce his stress similar to that of Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and founder of Facebook and Steve Jobs, former CEO and founder of Apple. All three reduced their leadership fatigue by reducing the number of decisions they must make every day. Obama has adopted to only wear blue or gray suits, just as Jobs always wore a black turtleneck, and Zuckerberg a gray T-Shirt, every day to work so that they don’t have to waste time, or energy, deciding what to wear each day.

Other successful leaders in the public eye use techniques that are similar to what President Obama does to manage stress and energy levels. In an online article, the billionaire media personality, Oprah Winfrey, wrote about how important it is to manage her stress and conserve her energy by making healthy food choices, surrounding herself with people who build, rather than sap, her energy, and taking regular time off to recharge and rejuvenate by doing something that she enjoys and finds relaxing.

As a leader, what are you doing to manage your stress levels and avoid leadership exhaustion? Are you setting yourself up for success by getting an early start to your day and practicing good self-care habits? Have you examined your daily schedule and looked for ways to delegate tasks and eliminate or minimise unnecessary decisions that drain you of your time and energy?

While you might have done a good job so far juggling all of your tasks and responsibilities, and have somehow managed to “do it all,” without having a physical or mental breakdown, pushing yourself will only get you so far. You might be a good manager, but you will never be a great leader unless you take the time to create the support structure that you need to help you manage your stress and ward off fatigue.

If you truly want to succeed and excel at leadership, at some point, you will need to take a moment to stop and take a critical look at your daily life and make some decisions about how it is organised, and who and what you allow into your life and what you devote your time to, in order to have and maintain the power that you will need to achieve your goals and dreams.

Get in touch today to learn more about how to defeat leadership exhaustion and set yourself up for success!

Source: Sonia McDonald via the TE LinkedIn Group

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