Want to Beat Burnout? Practice Sustainable Leadership
As leaders, we often have to go above and beyond to help out people on our team and to support our organizations. This can take a toll on us over time if we are not finding ways to rejuvenate ourselves throughout the process of leading others. As a leader, if you are only expending energy without getting any renewal or rejuvenation, it can be draining over time. This can have long term effects on us and our leadership of others.
A great way to think of energy and leadership is like water in a bucket. The more water in the bucket, the more energy we have to accomplish tasks and reach our goals. Now, put a hole at the bottom of the bucket to represent when we lead. Water, or energy, pours out when we lead others. When the bucket has no more water in it then we are out of energy and unable to effectively perform our role for our team or organization. With this analogy, being a leader require constant outputs of energy while still providing an influx of fresh energy to keep ourselves going. This is the challenge all leaders must face if they are going to be able to serve themselves and others to the greatest degree. We have to find ways to keep our buckets full!
We have all experienced some form of unsustainable leadership, whether as a leader or a follower. Unsustainable leadership can be characterized when someone burns out and is unable to effectively to perform their role and responsibilities over time. Examples of burnout happen all of the time when people put so much energy and effort into their work and do not have any source of renewal. In fact, according to a 2016 survey conducted by Morar Consulting, HR leaders reported that a ‘epidemic’ of employee burnout was negatively affecting employee retention rates across industries.
The practice of leadership is no different. If a person puts all of their energy into leading others but fails to find a way to gain energy back from the process, they are fighting an uphill battle. Leadership burnout is a unique concept, in that leadership is often perceived as providing energy back to the leader simply in the way that we work with others or the work that we do. However, there are many situations where we as leaders expend significantly more energy than we have in our own buckets to be sustainable over time.
If the leader cannot sustain themselves, then they will most likely have trouble trying to sustain a group or team. That being said, we, as leaders, do not have to be destined for burnout and can take strides to learn to lead sustainably for ourselves and others. If you can master the process of knowing how to revitalize yourself, then there is no leadership challenge you can’t overcome. There are two good approaches to balancing our energy: getting more energy and expending less energy.
Gaining energy from our role as leaders requires that we understand what energizes us and then finding ways to incorporate that into our leadership style. Understanding what is important to you and shaping your leadership efforts to include those considerations can help you energize yourself regularly.
The other approach is to expend less energy. Sometimes, the way we are spending our time and energy is part of the issue. This does not mean cutting off your energy, but rather, putting your energy where it can be most effective for accomplishing your goals and supporting your team or organization.
We can practice managing our energy and combating burnout by implementing some of these simple strategies into our practice of leadership:
- Evaluate – evaluate yourself, your team, and your organization. Are you working smarter not harder? Think critically about the ways that you can make your work easier on everyone in whatever ways you can – set specific goals, streamline your operations, revamp your meetings, etc.
- Prioritize – prioritize all of your tasks, projects, events etc. Know when and where you should be placing your energy, then focus it there so that you don’t spread yourself too thin by taking on too much at once.
- Delegate – this is about letting go of control as a leader. Empower your team to make decisions that will help ease some of the responsibility off of your shoulders.
- Ask for help – be strong enough to ask for help when you need it, it doesn’t make you any less of a leader.
- Practice self-care – as leaders we can get so caught up in taking care of others that we forget to take care of ourselves. Self-care is not a selfish act, it’s a necessary one. Read more about best self-care practices with this blog post.
- Process – take the time to reflect and process your experiences. This can be accomplished through check ins and check-outs, written reflections etc.
- Practice gratitude – when we get burnt out, we can get pretty negative and lose sight of why we continue the work that we are passionate about. Practice gratitude with the help from this blog post.
- Rest – There’s nothing like good old fashioned rest. Rest your brain, rest your body, you need time to do this to recover. You can do little things to feel more rested during your day – try to cut out caffeine, turn off your devices before bed, etc.
- Establish boundaries – you know yourself and your limits best, so establish personal boundaries that respect those limits and will help you stay on track. Make sure that these boundaries one things that you will actually uphold and feel comfortable communicating clearly to others.
Create time and space to develop and practice these habits. This will help you to avoid burnout but will also model good behavior for your team so that they can begin to develop good habits for themselves. As leaders, understanding what we need to be successful, giving ourselves energy, and seeking opportunities for renewal is critical to filling our buckets so that we can continue to serve at our best.
Have you filled your bucket today?
“You can do anything but not everything”
Implement the tips from above so that you can perform at your best! Even practicing a few of these in your daily routine will help you to feel more balanced, energized and capable as a leader.
*Meet the Author*
Joe Pazmany works with Leadership Inspirations developing training methods and experiential content while he completes research for his Doctorate in Organizational Leadership.