4 Observations about Leaders

In my role as a leadership and performance development facilitator/trainer with Oklahoma Human Services, I have the opportunity to have regular conversations with leaders from all across the state. These leaders are smart, capable, passionate, conscientious; and they perform very important tasks with a high level of competency and character.

But they are also tired.

Like the rest of us, they are trying their best to navigate the complexities and chaos of our current culture, but with the added burden of leading others through it as well. And it’s physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually exhausting.

Here’s the top challenges that leaders seem to be facing right now:

  1. Loneliness. One of the most written about aspects of leadership is that it is a lonely endeavor, but the loneliness that seems to be inherent to leadership has been amplified by the pervasive telework environment that has been created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  2. Struggling with the pace of change and the responsibility to lead others through it. Leaders are, in many ways, agents of change. So, it’s not change itself that has leaders stymied; it’s the rate and pace of change that is challenging.
  3. Difficulty maintaining healthy boundaries. Many leaders have all but eliminated their boundaries in an effort to “keep up” – but they fail to see that their lack of boundaries is leading them to burnout.
  4. Remembering their “why.” Personal vision that is built upon clearly defined values and standards is being lost within the chaos of our times, and leaders don’t seem to have “centering rituals” or someone who can remind them of why they do what they do.

Here’s a few thoughts:

  1. If you’re feeling lonely, gather a few other leaders you know and form a “support group.” I’m part of a group of 7 leaders who get together several times a year just to hang out, bounce ideas off one another, provide support to one another, and talk leader-to-leader. This group has been an anchor for me, especially during turbulent seasons of leadership.
  2. If you’re struggling with the pace of change, get clear on what you believe and value, and set a personal standard of work and character by which you wish to live. This will keep you grounded and centered as the world around you is constantly changing.
  3. If you don’t have boundaries that are helping you “refuel” emotionally, physically, and spiritually, then drop what you’re doing and set those boundaries now! Think about best practices that give you the opportunity to do your best work and keep you focused on what is most important. If you don’t know where to start, you can start by listing 5 things (or people) that drain you emotionally and 5 things (or people) that fill you up emotionally. Once identified, prioritize your “emotional tank fillers” on your calendar so that you are not constantly dealing with things that are draining you – and give yourself permission to take care of yourself first so that you can take care of others.
  4. If you’re having difficulty remembering your big picture “why,” take some time to think about the ultimate reason for why you do what you do. Then write down an experience you’ve had that made you say, “That’s why I do what I do!” Keep that story handy so that you can read it over and over again as a reminder. Or, do you have a picture or a memento that reminds you of your why? If so, display it where you will see it every day.

Leadership is difficult but necessary.

So, don’t lose heart.

Keep leading.

You are making a difference!

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