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13 Signs of Leadership Fatigue

Last year we explored burnout in two powerful lessons, which were hopefully a blessing, and a warning, to many of you. We looked at signs of burnout and then how to begin the long road back once you have slipped into that awful abyss. Today, I’d like to share an article by one of my doctoral professors and dean of grad studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, 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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.”

  5. 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.”

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. Misdirecting affections – When nothing they do brings joy, fatigued leaders sometimes turn to others for affirmation. That’s when that coworker/church member’s look seems sexier, that hug feels like a caress, and that increasingly intimate relationship seems justified.

  11. Decreasing exercise – Professional and emotional fatigue quickly leads to physical tiredness. Exercise becomes that much more difficult.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

So, take a look at these and examine your present situation. How many of these resonate with you? Make some attempts to address those items, and if they don’t improve, seek to get help. Delegate some duties to others for a season. Drop redundancy and fruitless energy and mental drainers. Seek accountability or even professional help. Take a sabbatical or at least a vacation to rest your mind, body and soul. Open God’s Word and pray for clarity. Find your favorite worship helps and immerse yourself in God. Allow Him to heal you. If you need to talk, drop me an e-mail or text and let’s get together! Blessings, Pastor David

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