Responding to Leader Exhaustion
I ask leaders for a lot. When I'm coaching a leader, I'm checking in to see if they're being empathetic, decisive, thoughtful, direct, and kind - all while being financially responsible.
And with the need to lead a team during a pandemic, a great resignation, high inflation, and supply issues, all those qualities feel as if they are needed more than ever.
So it is no wonder that leaders are exhausted or quitting leading altogether. I had one client say that the reason he was leaving his executive role was because he felt like he was constantly putting out emotional fires within his company, but not attending to his own fires.
This is not a new trend (nor am I looking to give this a trendy name). Leadership has always involved carrying an emotional burden. Unfortunately, this burden is still being carried by older tactics like pushing through sleepless nights, working more/longer hours, or putting on a brave face for others.
Addressing this issue doesn't come by shouldering more, but by:
Recognize the gap. As a leader, how are you feeling - really? And how does that compare to how you show up at work? Not all emotions need to be worn on your sleeve nor is it healthy to ignore what you're feeling.
Share with others. Psychologically safe teams and organizations happen when people feel they can say they're not okay. And leaders set the example when it comes to communicating with self-compassion.
Challenge what got you here. Investing in strong benefits and programs to support well-being is important. And, leaders have an opportunity to challenge their scheduling and communication habits and behaviors that got them into a leadership role.
Allow others to challenge. Leaders are not the only ones in the organization who are burnt out. Allow team members to challenge the system by sharing what they need towards better well-being.
The health of the company is only as strong as the health of your leaders. By emphasizing your own health as a leader, you're encouraging the same emphasis for employees - and ultimately the organization's success.