Being an effective leader is not always easy. To succeed as a leader, one must be proactive and employ effective leadership skills. All too often do we know of someone who has neglected to take care of themselves and experienced leadership burnout in some way. It’s that unfortunate moment when a business leader realizes that they’ve stopped being passionate about their job, their organization, or their business because they’re just too exhausted to care anymore.
While I associate this concept with church ministry and church leaders, it is a social phenomenon that affects individuals of all platforms and positions, whether they are leaders in education, psychiatry, politics, law, business, or one of the myriad of other fields of research and employment.
Unfortunately, while we are used to talking about and recognizing the signs of leadership burnout, we rarely invest much time thinking about how to prevent it. The best way to prevent burnout is to think preventatively! Applying effective leadership skills from the get go is the most important thing we can do to ensure our mental health and stability.
Instead of remaining in this reactive cycle, we need to be more proactive about preventing leadership burnout. So here are three simple steps for effective leadership skills that ensure we stay productive and passionate about our roles as leaders.
Step 1: Engage in Self Care
My daughter is in a joint political science and women’s studies university program, and this concept is commonly talked about in her feminism courses. The basic idea is that you need to take care of yourself physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, and that doing this should always be your top priority.
Unfortunately, many individuals within the self-care movement take it too far, often using the excuse “I needed to engage in self care” as a justification for not getting work done. However, there is something to be said about taking care of yourself and meeting your own needs so that you can better meet the needs of your team and your customers.
Think about it this way:
If you haven’t taken the time to eat a healthy breakfast, take a shower, or get enough sleep at night, it is absolutely impossible for you to adequately meet the needs of those who are relying on your leadership.
Self-care doesn’t need to look like you going on a vacation, although unfortunately that’s what many people think of. Self-care isn’t meant to be a form of escapism. Rather, it is meant to be a way of grounding and stabilizing yourself, of systematically taking small actions towards improving yourself and your overall wellbeing so that you can better serve and lead others.
We all know the Golden Rule: treat others the way that you want to be treated. So use this rule to put things into perspective: if you are treating yourself like garbage by neglecting your basic needs, how do you think that will affect the way that you treat others?
Moral of the story: It is important to engage in self-care so that you can be the best version of yourself and subsequently be better equipped to lead those around you.
Step 2: Get External Input
In many ways, burnout is like someone catching a computer virus. It doesn’t necessarily cause them to crash immediately, but it makes them progressively less and less efficient, bringing them closer and closer to the end of themselves. If the virus is caught in the early stages, this can be prevented, of course.
Here’s the issue:
Just like a computer on its own isn’t aware of the fact that it has a virus, an individual experiencing leadership burnout is almost always unaware of the fact that he or she is burning out. And just like a computer is powerless to do anything about the virus without the appropriate anti-virus software, a leader who is burning out is often unable to reverse the process without the necessary input from an external source.
I don’t think that there is anything more dangerous for the wellbeing of a business, organization, or team than when the leader decides that he or she knows best and chooses to become the proverbial lone-wolf leader. At the end of the day, every effective leader needs input from individuals outside of the business, whether those individuals are friends, family members, mentors, or critics. These are the people who will have a different perspective on what is happening inside the business. And these are the people who will be able to notice relatively quickly whether an individual in a position of authority is facing leadership burnout.
So as a leader, you need to surround yourself with people who are willing to speak words of blessing and words of caution into your life. You need people who will notice the warning signs when you are unable to. You need people who are able to see the situation from a distance, recognize the problem, and then gently offer you wisdom, advice, and counsel.
Whether these individuals are fellow leaders, personal mentors, or prayer warriors, you need to have this proverbial anti-virus software in place if you want to adequately prevent and/or address leadership burnout in your life.
Step 3: Take Time to Reprioritize
One of the key factors of effective leadership skills is having your priorities in order.
For most leaders, we get into our positions of authority because we genuinely love what we do and we care about those we are leading. We are usually more interested in the business or the movement than we are in the money, and our focus in almost always on influencing the lives of others, not on increasing our personal income.
However, what inevitably happens is that, as money becomes tighter or our dreams become bigger, the economic side of running a business, team, or organization begins to take up more and more of our brain power. Usually, we are able to find an equilibrium between being a practical leader and an inspiring visionary. But it doesn’t take much for us to be thrown off balance, and once that happens, we can become so caught up in maximizing profits and reducing expenses and balancing budgets that we forget why we fell in love with our business in the first place.
This is where we as leaders are at the greatest risk of burning out. Because the longer we stay in this place, the move detached we become from the very thing that made us originally enjoy what we do: passion.
So in order to prevent this destructive spiral downward, we should take time every few months to sit down, examine our lives, and reprioritize our time. And this is a practice that we need to be encouraging everyone in our business, organization, and/or team to engage in.
The Bible says that, where there is no vision, the people perish. So as vitally important as it is for us to take time to acknowledge the practical issues that must be addressed when running a business, we cannot forget the vision that originally transformed us into the leaders that we are today.
Ultimately, I recognize that leadership burnout is a complex challenge that has multiple causes. These three steps alone won’t prevent every leader that’s out there from crumbling under the weight of emotional exhaustion. But if all this article does is get us thinking proactively about preventing leadership burnout, then my job here is done.
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