The late coaching legend of the Green Bay Packers, Vince Lombardi used to say, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” Physical weariness is dangerous to leading courageously. If we admit it, as leaders, we are often dopamine and adrenaline junkies who manage overloaded lives with drugs that include sugar, caffeine, alcohol, ibuprofen, etc. At some point we end up looking like the donkey in this video…
According to Dan Allender, weariness is a fifth universal leadership challenge. An occasional 60-80 work week can be excused as, “It is a crazy time right now.” The problem for me was that kind of week became the norm. Overload becomes chronic until weariness and fatigue set in.
Fatigue is an acute, ongoing state of tiredness that leads to mental or physical exhaustion and prevents leaders from functioning within normal boundaries. It is more than feeling tired and drowsy; it is a physical condition that can occur when a leader’s physical or mental limits are reached.
The effects of fatigue increase with age. People over 50 years of age tend to have lighter, fragmented sleep; which can prevent them from receiving the recuperative effects from a full night of sleep, and can make them more likely to become fatigued. Lack of sleep has been indirectly linked with the following health effects:
Here are 9 strategies that can help a leader guard against physical weariness and fatigue:
1. Exercise. Exercise helps with stress and releases certain chemicals in the body that cause a sense of physical well-being.
2. Eat a healthy, balanced diet.
3. Get 8 hours of sleep. Sleep is the only effective long term strategy to prevent and manage fatigue. While tired muscles can recover with rest, the brain can only recover with sleep.
4. Evaluate how much “Type A” I am.
- Am I time oriented and never seem to have enough time?
- Competitive, success driven, workaholic?
- Underlying anger, etc…?
5. Slow down, relax, put priorities in proper order.
6. Build margin into your life. A simple formula to remember is when margin increases, stress decreases, and relationships increase. The contrary is also true: when margin decreases, stress increases and relationships decrease.
7. Rearrange schedule according to priorities and stick to it.
- Time to relax
- Time with the Lord
- Time with spouse
- Time with kids
- Time just to goof off
- Then time for scheduled work.
8. Learn time management skills.
- Take inventory of time usage
- Learn to concentrate on the task at hand
- Relate daily tasks to overall picture
- Learn to delegate, especially those things that can be done effectively by others.
9. Become disillusioned. Allender says this is the tipping point to hope. When we become disillusioned to the fact that our busyness to satisfy our inner yearning for significance, and we are mocked by our flawed attempts to please everyone, we eventually turn to God. We return to focus on pleasing the One rather than trying to please everyone. Lead from a spiritual base of an aggressive personal spiritual life and walk, seeking Him in every way. Aggressively seek to pursue your personal development and find a coach or coaches that can help you. You cannot afford a spontaneous (rather than intentional and planned) approach to spiritual life, ministry and family.
Are you fatigued? What can you do to recharge physically?
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- Leadership lessons along the journey, part 3: Complexity
- Leadership lessons along the journey, part 4: Betrayal
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- 7 practices to avoid becoming a self-absorbed, narcissistic leader
- Leading with courage in the midst of betrayal
- 7 practices to relieve leadership loneliness
Minirth, F., Meier, P. and Hawkins, D. (1986). How to beat burnout