I’m a huge believer that external facets of leadership health are largely a reflection of our internal health.
In short, if you want to lead in a healthy way, you yourself must first be healthy.
The next two parts of this series will focus on those external dynamics of healthy leadership: relationships and finances. These external (tangible) results of leadership can only be accomplished if we’ve first dealt with the internal dynamics of sustainable leadership.
This conversation is needed now more than ever. As we head toward summer, we’re all feeling the compounding stress from a year of COVID, political turmoil, economic uncertainty, and a variety of other factors.
Before we transition to the external facets of leadership health (and given the startling rise of burnout during 2020), I want to offer signs and symptoms of burnout. If you or someone you know is experiencing the following, please seek professional help. You may contact me here for coaching or reach out to a licensed therapist in your area.
Feelings of apathy about work
Questions around meaning and purpose
Using food, alcohol, or drugs to self-medicate feelings
Lack of satisfaction about work accomplished
A lack of energy
Little desire to be productive or passionate in work
Physical ailments like prolonged upset stomach, heartburn, and/or headaches.
Today, we’re beginning a new series where we examine eight core concepts to help you grow your business. These eight core concepts come from Marcus Whitney’s book Create and Orchestrate. You can currently pick up a copy on Amazon Kindle for only $.99.
In his book, Whitney outlines eight core concepts that every business owner must track, measure, and invest in in order to grow their business.
In this series, I’m not going to rehash his points (you can read his book to know what he thinks). Instead, I want to use it as an outline as a frame for what I do with business owners and leaders in the context of coaching. I agree with much of what Marcus said and want to springboard off of that to give you some additional insights, pointers, tips, and business tricks on your entrepreneurial journey.
A software engineer by trade, Marcus outlines his eight core concepts in terms of ‘priority’ and ‘inheritance.’
What’s counterintuitive about this framework is that if you get hung up on the “priority,” you’ll miss the importance of inheritance. In computer science, inheritance means that an object has all the capabilities of the object it inherits from, plus its own new capabilities. If you apply this to the Eight Core Concepts framework, it means that while marketing is the least core of the eight concepts, it is the most comprehensive. Marketing has aspects of leadership, finance, operations, growth, product, service, and sales within it. It is the only concept comprehensive of all other business concepts, and that’s why marketers are so elevated in today’s business world.*
Concepts Number One: Leadership
John Maxwell has made famous the line, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” Whitney, in his book, agrees. Leadership is a necessity for any business to be successful. Without good leadership, a business is doomed.
I’ve written a lot about leadership, especially in the workplace. The higher up you are in an organization, the more good leadership is expected (and demanded) of you. In order to provide this effectively, you must be rooted in the internal and external aspects of leadership health.
The internal dynamics of coaching include your spiritual, emotional, physical, and mental health. Internally healthy individuals ask questions like, “Am I spending time improving and leading myself well?” Strong morals are a part of internally strong leaders, but so are times of rest, physical activity, mental stimulation through reading, coaching, therapy, and times of quiet mediation.
Externally healthy leaders are focused on the relational and financial dimensions of growth. Their finances are in order so they can live generously and their relationships are strong. These strong relationships are found both inside and outside of work. Well-rounded leaders have close friends, a vibrant relationship with family, and uplifting and positive interactions in the workplace.
Strong leaders also have their finances in order. To lead a business well, they must lead themselves well. To grow a strong financial portfolio at work, they must know how to manage their personal money first.
Growing leaders know that they can only lead others as well as they have first led themselves and they take their own growth seriously.
Grow Your Leadership Capacity
Here are three ways to grow as a leader.
Professionally, seek out good coaching. This should come as no surprise. I’m a huge advocate for coaching. Coaches provide a judgement-free zone to explore serious topics. The higher you rise in an organization, the fewer peers you have to talk to, the more you need a coach. Find a coach who either specializes in your particular niche or area of growth and commit to twelve weeks of intentional investment in yourself. You’ll be surprised how much you can grow in twelve weeks. Reassess and recommit as necessary.
Develop deep relationships. One consistent problem I see with success-minded individuals is that initially, success can be viewed fairly small. Most of the time, success is thought of in relation to our work. We can be tempted to think, “I’m successful because I’ve made XXX amount of money.” This fallacy leaves us in danger not only of burnout but of disconnect in our relationships. If you ever hear a phrase like, “Dad made a lot of money but was absent most of my childhood and a jerk when he was around” you’ve failed as a leader. Success happens one drop at a time, make sure that you spend time putting effort and success into many aspects of your life, including deep and significant personal relationships.
Just yesterday, I spent time talking with my wife about some current frustrations in my business. There are parts of my business that I know are struggling and some that need to be reevaluated. As a solopreneur, finding time to balance everything can be difficult, and I was sharing some of that frustration with her. My failure to hit some of my more significant KPI’s left me frustrated. When I asked her what I should do, she said, “Ride your motorcycle.”
It was genius advice.
For me, more stress equals more I work. That helps no one. Instead, I needed to do the opposite of what my gut told me. Private leadership development is about finding life-giving and enriching hobbies that keep us sane. When stressed, I experience less productivity, decreased creativity, poor results, and increased anger. That’s not at all the type of person I want to be. In fact, that’s the exact opposite of what I’m trying to do. Privately, find and develop hobbies. Escape your workplace. Find ways to evade work. Unplug. Recharge. Breath. The only way to keep your sanity in the midst of a difficult time is to know when to turn off your work brain and turn on your fun brain.
Make a plan: As we work through the eight core concepts, make a plan for growth. Today, pick one of the “p’s” mentioned above and write out your growth plan. How do you want to grow professionally, personally, or privately in the next twelve weeks. Find someone to hold you accountable. If you need, you can email me your plan and I’ll follow up with you personally.
Eight Core Concepts
This list is updated as the blog series continues. Click on any live link to go to that post in the series.
If we want to prevent leadership burnout, we must first acknowledge it. This week, we want to create a plan for resisting burnout. Below are four things Jesus did. We can implement similar and visions to have sustained leadership success.
Jesus, from the very inception of his public ministry, took intentional action steps to prevent ministry burnout. Aware of the potential dangers and the high price of public demand, Jesus regularly withdrew and practiced steps to healthy spirituality.
Resisting Burnout is a process.
Here are 4 action steps for leadership health.
1.) Clarity in Calling
Jesus’ first act after his baptism was to withdraw to the wilderness and develop clarity in his calling. Christians claim Jesus as God and therefore temptations he faces in Luke four have often been thought of as “no big deal.” The mindset is that if God can’t sin, these temptations didn’t really bother Jesus. This sells the narrative short. The real temptations behind all of these are what kind of Messiah Jesus is going to be. Behind each of these temptations is a short cut.
In the first temptation, he is tempted to transform rocks into bread.
His physical hunger, a legitimate need after forty days in the wilderness, is becoming the focus of the first attack. Clearly there is legitimacy to this need; after forty days of fasting, Jesus needs to eat. The shortcut is to be a one-stop food production worker. Thousands of enslaved Israelites are about to meet him and would love the chance at free food. Satan knows that if Jesus stays busy producing food for the masses, he will never have time or be a threat to conquer death and sin.
We can face similar temptations in our own leadership journey. People will look to us to help them accomplish good things. But good is the enemy of great. Don’t take your eyes off your ultimate calling by settling for something less. Resisting burnout requires clarity of vision.
The second temptation is to worship Satan and be given the status of ruler over the earth.
Satan’s hope here is to usurp God’s authority in the life of Jesus with his own. If Jesus worships Satan, then there is no need for a political-religious showdown with the local rulers. The status quo can be maintained.
Wise leadership knows when to upset the status quo and start a new direction. Courageous leadership takes action when action is required, knowing that the end destination will be worth the temporary pain of change. Resisting burnout requires courageous action.
The final temptation is to jump from the temple and be miraculously saved by angels.
Enthralled masses would soon want to follow this daredevil, Jesus. He would be so busy planning his next death-defying escape that he wouldn’t have time for social and religious transformation. Always needing to please the crowd, Jesus would waste his days performing magic tricks instead of freeing enslaved people.
Called leaders do not settle for being crowd-pleasers. Instead, while they hope to inspire those that follow them, they are more concerned about doing what is right and living in the full depth of their calling. Resisting burnout requires internal strength.
The Danger of Settling
The dangerous grounds for each of these is that Jesus ends up doing all of these tasks any way.
Jesus does feed the hungry masses in spectacular ways.
He does perform miracles that draw crowds
He is crowned and given authority over the earth.
Yet as it relates to burnout prevention we see something important: Jesus does and is able to accomplish these things because he first spent time clarifying his calling and who he was in God. Leaders must use this same sort of diligence.
There will always be the temptation for leaders to fall prey to these temptations in one way or another: the need for validation, the false sense of urgency, or the cheap thrill of mindless entertainment.
Only when someone has been sufficiently grounded in both calling and character are they able to produce lasting and beneficial leadership.
2.) Solitude and Prayer
Another important rhythm that Jesus engages in is to regularly retreat for prayer and solitude. One author records,
“Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”
The demands of leadership are tiring to the body and the soul. By instilling regular rhythms of rest and retreat, leaders can fight against fatigue.
Regular intervals might include:
Daily disciplines like prayer, exercise, and meditation.
Monthly half-day getaways for extended silence away from technology.
Quarterly retreats for planning and visioning.
Yearly vacations and times of Sabbath rest.
3.) Focus On The Right Perspectives
The Gospel of Mark records a telling story about Jesus’ perspectives in ministry. Even in the midst of tremendous need, Jesus tells his disciples that it is time to move on from one location to another. He reminds them that they must travel throughout the countryside and to other towns and villages.
The current population wants Jesus to localized and claim him as their own. Jesus refutes this desire and offers a larger perspective about the work he is up to.
Leaders today will face similar temptations. Getting stuck into work ruts, ignoring vision for the day-to-day mundane, the desire to be liked, or the inability to say no. Called and courageous leaders must resist all of these temptations.
4.) Personal Relationships
Two key markers are important to note in an examination of Jesus’ personal relationships.
First, there is the frustration of isolation. The elevation of the leader in the mind of the organization often leaves them with few (if any) close friends or trusted confidants. All relationships essentially become working relationships and lack a personal feel. Jesus builds a personal ministry with close confidants, not only seeking to train the disciples but to confide in them and relate to them as people. Jesus, in eating with his followers and in visiting their homes, shows that while he is here to accomplish a mission, people are the focus and deserve his best.
Second is Jesus’ investment in others. Jesus spent significant time investing in other people: his twelve disciples, a larger group of seventy-two followers, and the masses. Within each of these spheres, he invests in the well-being of others through mentoring, training and education.
What is often lost in the hectic pace of leadership is a commitment to invest, mentor, and train others. When tasks become more important than people and result more important than a process, leaders lose the opportunity for influence. To break free from this misaligned perspective, leaders must regain focus on investing time with people and bring them into further stages of development.
Need help or guidance? Schedule a free strategy session to help you in resisting burnout.