By Chuck Lawless
Leadership is sometimes wearisome – so wearisome that we come close to giving up. Over the years, I’ve watched leaders slide into defeat, and I’ve seen some of these common signs of trouble.
I list these symptoms of “leadership fatigue” here not to discourage you, but instead to help you recognize them, address them, and move forward. At the end of this post, tell us how we might pray for you if you see yourself in this list.
- Living by a “get me through the day” philosophy – You may begin the day with prayer, but surviving the day is your prayer theme. Thriving is not even an option because that won’t happen – even with God’s help.
- Losing vision – A leadership vision assumes a commitment far beyond today. Fatigued leaders, though, don’t consider beyond the end of this workday. Anything longer demands too much energy.
- Developing poor sleep patterns – The patterns may vary, but they still reflect fatigue: too much sleep as you seek to avoid perceived reality, or too little sleep when you can’t get perceived reality out of your mind. Either way, you’re exhausted.
- Declining spiritual disciplines – This change may be one of the first signs of trouble for leaders who have previously been faithful in spiritual disciplines. Bible study becomes only a necessary step in doing your job, and prayer is reduced to emergencies only. Weariness leaves little room for anything that requires “discipline.”
- Repeating lessons and sermons – Finding something in the file is much less draining than the hard work of praying about and developing a sermon or lesson. Leadership fatigue convinces you that “nobody will remember the previous time anyway.”
- Faking joy and excitement – Few actions are more exhausting than pretending to have joy you don’t have. Every sentence is hard, and every nod of the head feels like a ton of weight on your shoulders. Our weariness is only compounded by our pretense.
- Frustrating family members – Leaders who fight to get through the day often let their guard down when they get home – and all the stress of playing the game for eight hours gets dumped on their family. The resultant pain on our family members is hardly fake.
- Magnifying minors – What seemed insignificant last month is unexpectedly huge when we’re tired. That simple difference of opinion now feels like blatant disagreement – even rebellion or betrayal of your leadership.
- Failing to return emails and phone calls – Communicating with people takes time, energy, and focus. Weary leaders tend to delay responding to others, if they choose to respond at all.
- Misdirecting affections – When nothing they do brings joy, fatigued leaders sometimes turn to others for affirmation. That’s when that church member’s look seems sexier, that hug feels like a caress, and that increasingly intimate relationship seems justified.
- Decreasing exercise – Professional and emotional fatigue quickly leads to physical tiredness. Exercise becomes that much more difficult.
- Focusing on a “grass is greener” syndrome – It’s amazing how leadership fatigue affects the lenses through which we see other options. Every other role, it seems, is suddenly better than our current one.
- Avoiding people who speak truth – When we know we’re tired of leading, it’s just easier to avoid people who know us well enough to recognize the problem.
What other symptoms of “leadership fatigue” have you seen? What recommendations would you give a leader facing these issues? If you’re dealing with leadership fatigue, tell us how we might pray for you.