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Does leadership have to be so exhuasting?

Before we dig into this big issue, I would like to acknowledge the many leaders who have stoically kept on keeping on over the long-term – often without any recognition or celebrity status. They have consistently, organically mentored others simply because 'that's what you did'. I have made it a passion project o mine to celebrate and honour them and their work and lives. Most especially, I want to study the life and balance they have achieved as they have been able to experience the joy and fulfilment of long-term leadership without succumbing to the pitfalls of burnout or temptation. I have started interviewing them to document their stories in the hope of discovering their secrets to such longevity. 

Wisdom can be knowing when to say no

But first, let me take a step back and share some of my own journey, which in some ways, ignited my passion to discover the secret of lasting long-term in leadership.

My husband and I were on a pathway to becoming the pastors of our church. Shortly before a commissioning service, we chose not to go through with it. We realised that pastoring a church was not a wise choice for us both. While our hearts were excited for the opportunity to serve, the reality of our home and work/life commitments and pressures meant that we would be extending ourselves beyond our capabilities in an unhealthy way. It was an unpaid role, so we would need to continue to run our businesses to make ends meet. Our children were still young, and both had additional needs requiring more than your average parent involvement to get through the week (ADHD and Autism). So we said 'no'. It was tough to disappoint those in leadership above us who had so much hope and expectation of us, but it was a self-preservation decision.

Though my example was in a volunteer situation, I know this 'being asked for more than I can handle' situation happens repeatedly across the world in both business and not-for-profits. A well known phrase that still gets repeated is "If you need to get something done, ask a busy person". The idea is that if someone is showing competence and a willingness to work hard, surely they can take on more. The focus is more on the person looking to delegate than the person who is doing the work.

I truly believe a better way has to be found for leaders to lead without getting burnt-out, or simply experiencing exhaustion or marriage breakdowns.

The secrets to leadership longevity

I set out to find out how long-term leaders have sustained their passion and their work without sacrificing their health, well-being, or loved ones. I have started interviewing leaders that have been in ministry for over 20 years. Here is the first of what I hope will be many posts with the wisdom they had to share: 


 1. Love your family

Put family first. Your children will only have one childhood and you only have one spouse. Set clear boundaries for family time and gently but firmly stick to them.


2. Love boundaries

Make it known to your fellow leaders, and team members when you are available and when you are not. Share the ‘on call’ requirement with your church elders to cover emergencies and to cover you on your day off. It is ok for you to have a life outside of your work.


3. Love yourself

You are worthy of all the self-love you can muster. Exercise self-care. Make time to eat. Make time to exercise. Make time to do the things you love with the people you love.

4. Love people

Don’t isolate yourself. Choose a shared office space where you can interact with others. Stay accountable. 


5. Attitude of gratitude

Practice thankfulness daily. Make a conscious habit of expressing appreciation for big and small things – your relationships, health, family, friends, a bed to sleep in, food on the table, random acts of kindness…


6. Ask for help

Stay humble and remember that we all need a little help from outside sometimes. People often want to help but don’t know how. Recognise when you need help and seek it out – a friend, colleague, coach or supervisor.

Know your limits

We were NOT designed to be all things to all people all the time. Our limits are there to tell us something. By investing daily in yourself, you will continue to harvest energy for today, tomorrow, and long into the future. Life gets hard. It gets messy. That is all part of the journey and so be ready with resilience and grit with your feet planted firmly in rest.

Live the life your were meant for

Don’t wait for burnout to come calling. Release Leadership empowers and encourages leaders through coaching, mentoring and supervision. We work with you to identify the areas of your work or life that are overloaded and unbalanced. With the support and guidance of a professional coach, you can achieve balance, fulfilment, growth and longevity in your leadership – so you can plan for long, and fruitful leadership career.

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