Three tell-tale signs you’re suffering from leadership fatigue

The last few years have been tough, to say the least. At points, you might have questioned how much longer you want to do this for. A sign you are suffering from leadership fatigue.

The relentless, never-ending pressure is draining your energy and it’s becoming harder to hide it. It’s affecting you and those around you, and you’re avoiding accountability because you’re overwhelmed enough as it is.

Sound familiar? You’re not alone. The C-Suite is under huge pressure to deliver right now.

We’re going through political upheaval, a changing economic climate, the war in Ukraine and the hangovers of the pandemic and Brexit. Retaining employees and keeping up with their new demands is difficult, hiring new people is even harder, and consumer confidence has dropped with the cost-of-living crisis.

Adding to that, some of us are working at home and attempting to juggle childcare, while others are desperate to remain in the office and the rest still can’t figure out how to unmute themselves.

And it’s you that everyone turns to for the answers.

Isn’t it a great time to be a leader?

In this blog, we’re going to share three tell-tale signs of leadership fatigue that we’ve picked up on from working with some of our clients. See if you can relate to any of them…

1. You’ve become cynical

The sales team are bringing in leads, but nothing will come of them. People can’t be trusted to work at home, more gets done in the office. The intern got your Starbucks order wrong, you knew that would happen. You’d be better off getting rid of everyone and running this business alone.  

Does that remind you of anyone?

Whether it’s you or someone around you, this kind of cynical attitude can often be due to built-up stress. Unless you’ve always been that miserable. But our guess is that your mindset is a result of everything that’s been thrown at you lately.

It’s not easy to put a brave face on in tough times, but you must remember that your team are looking to you for reassurance and guidance. Cynicism has no place in leadership and if you’re dealing with it, you will not be leading effectively.

So, what’s the cure? It all starts with you. You need to prioritise a period of self-care. And no, don’t roll your eyes at the idea of face masks and bubble baths. Real self-care is sleep, exercise, getting outdoors. It’s clearing your mind. It’s setting some boundaries. It’s turning notifications off. It’s laughing. It’s doing something selfless. Practising self-care is not a weakness.

Then, start practising gratitude. Look at all your successes rather than dwelling on your failures and do it with your team around you. If that feels difficult, discuss what’s gone wrong lately but take a positive spin on it and look for the learnings. How will these mistakes or challenges help you do better?

If it’s not you that’s the cynical one and you’re dealing with a cynical team member, it’s even more important to nip that in the bud. Cynical people believe nothing can change. They’re stubborn. We all know one!

The danger of cynicism is that it’s contagious. And it spreads quickly.

So, how can you try and eliminate cynicism within your team? Provide them with new experiences to build curiosity and creativity. Open their eyes to what they can achieve when plunged into the unknown and give them a rare opportunity to strengthen their bond.

We’ve delivered plenty of offsite experiential events for leadership teams (like this one), where they benefit from immersive learning out in nature. They’re usually up a mountain or somewhere equally chilly and challenging! Individuals within the teams learn so much about each other, and we learn loads from them, too. They come back with a fresh energy and focus on the future. And sometimes frost bite.

2. You’ve lost your passion

You used to get such a buzz out of work. Where did it go? Where’s that spark gone? You used to feel fulfilled in your role, but it’s feeling less meaningful and you’re losing purpose in your work. You’re bored.

Despite how much you’ll be trying to hide it, your dwindling passion will be blatantly obvious to your team.

They’re working for you because they believe in you. They bought into your vision. Your passion was what made them excited to be a part of your team.

When you stop leading with passion, you lose the trust and belief of your followers.

It’s normal to feel less passionate when there are so many difficult challenges being thrown at you. You’re having to spread yourself thinly, meaning you and people within your team are no longer playing to your strengths. By doing that, you’re missing out on having an impact where it matters.

Think about where the strengths lie within your team and make sure everyone’s strengths are being utilised in the right places, being aware of their limits, too. Start delegating better.

Focus on the things you’re good at, and that passion will start to come alight again. Typically, if you’re good at something, you enjoy it. You get satisfaction from it. Make sure you and everyone in your team are aware of each other’s responsibilities and craft their roles around their strengths to provide more fulfilment in challenging times.

3. Everything just feels… average

“An average team with average performance. Just about scraping by.”

This was a challenge a new client came to us with recently. Have you ever felt ‘average’?

You may have heard of the Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great. In it, Jim examines what it takes for ordinary companies to become great companies.

So, if your performance is average, just read the book and bob’s your uncle, you’ve gone from average to great.

Joking aside (but definitely read the book), a quote of his that we believe in says:

“Lasting transformations from good to great follow a general pattern of build-up, followed by breakthrough.”

That ‘general pattern of build-up’ is about making small changes rather than focusing on skipping forward to achieve that massive thing. Small, marginal gains that make significant improvements.

The theory of marginal gains is something Sir Dave Brailsford, former performance director of British Cycling, applied to his coaching methods. He believed that if you make a 1% improvement in a range of small areas, you’d see enormous results from those cumulative changes.

If everything’s a bit ‘meh’ right now, what are some small changes you can make to increase performance? Is there a process that needs looking at? Do some responsibilities need clarifying? Do you need to spend some quality time together as a team?

Don’t overlook the significance of the smaller steps. It all adds up.

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