How To Fight Leadership Fatigue

I bet some of you reading this newsletter have danced around the feeling of being “burnt out”. The past 20 months have placed all learner-centered leaders in the middle of society’s culture wars. From masking controversies to quarantine issues, to vaccination, we are dealing with a lot of stuff. Interestingly, the more this whole pandemic thing drags on, the MORE we are being placed in the middle of all of this culture war nonsense. It is all very draining and leads to leadership fatigue. Author Art Petty suggests seven ways to combat leadership fatigue.

Let’s spend less than five minutes and go over his seven suggestions.

1. Center on your purpose as a leader: I have beat the drum for a long time that in these times of uncertainty in the world, your purpose (or North Star) will make decision-making easier for you. Taking the time now to write your purpose will save you time in the future. Here are some questions the author suggests you use to start to find your purpose.

  • How do you want to be remembered at your retirement party?
  • What impact do you want to have on the lives and careers of those around you? ( I like this one)
  • And what do your current team members need from you to help them succeed?

2. Adjust your attitude through Beginner’s Mind thinking: Remember when you believed you could change the world? Oftentimes, the more experienced we become, the more jaded we become about the world and our ability to change it.

I have to be very cognizant of not becoming too cynical about the world. Cynicism leads to limited thinking about what you can do in the world to make it a better place. Here are three things I think about to keep me in a beginner’s mindset.

  • Keep being curious about the world
  • Look at the world (and people) with positive wonder
  • Figure out how you can help someone

3. Treat the workplace as a living laboratory and start experimenting: Find new approaches to difficult problems. Be a “mad scientist” who is constantly looking for a better way to accomplish what needs to be done.

4. Commit to creating value at every encounter: Imagine a world where everyone approaches every encounter with another person with the idea that they are going to add value to that person. Don’t approach the person like you know all of the answers, or they are being deficient in some way. Rather, view the encounter with the positive attitude of selfless help.

5. Get physical to rejuvenate the mind and body: Exercise leads to a calmer mind and better thinking. One idea I picked up from Thich Nich Hahn’s book Fear was something called “walking meditation.” Just going outside and walking when a problem starts to overwhelm you is a great little trick. I used it last week a few times and went for a few, short, 10 minute walks around the grounds where I work. It was helpful and brought perspective on the problems I was facing.

6. Reinvent your career without resigning: The best way to look at this suggestion is to look around your work and see where you can contribute that is not so obvious. For example, volunteer to serve on a committee that you may not feel like you are an expert in.

7. Do something completely different: Okay, I am not good at this at all. My dream has always been to learn how to play the guitar. I have attempted to learn in fits and starts over the years. The idea of doing something completely different is that you will build other parts of your brain. Whether it’s gardening, knitting, or organizing a non-profit, doing something completely different will help hold off leadership fatigue.

About Tom Butler, Ph.D.

I believe that public education is for the public good and that education should be uncompromisingly learner-centered. The New Learning Ecosystem points us away from the old model of education that does not serve kids well. All educators regardless of where they work can help lead and contribute to the New Learning Ecosystem.
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