There is no such thing as work-life balance. It is all life. The balance has to be within you – Sadhguru
Leaders are expected to keep the engine of enterprise moving forward all the time. Whether it is leading in the community, in personal development or in business, they are counted on to be a source of inspiration, encouragement, and motivational support for others. They must be focused on the well-being of others and on the vision that defines the direction of their group or business. They are required to continually seek and negotiate opportunities for growth, to be competent planners and guides for reaching the goals of a group. It is vital that they be involved in their own continuing education as a commitment to maintaining an innovative and competitive edge in their pursuits. They must be financial wizards, especially in times of economic downturn. And they need to be confident problem-solvers and discerning decision makers.
In addition to carrying the weight of all those logistical demands, they are also charged with modelling a positive attitude for others by having an even, balanced and confident demeanour every day. They must be good listeners, clear communicators, interested collaborators and enthusiastic cheerleaders. In addition to all the ‘other focus’, they must also find time to be invested and engaged in their personal lives that may include relationships, children. Maintaining health, well-being and pursuits that enhance personal growth also vie for attention in an already overloaded schedule.
In short, a leader’s work needs to be a cohesive mixture of saviour, teacher, mentor, fixer, guide and parent. It’s a tall order that is not without its side effects:
Burnout and Imbalance
The demands of leadership can be all-consuming and don’t get a day off. On vacations or weekends, some part of the responsibility and strategizing grinds away in background thoughts even as one rests on the beach, plays with their children, or simply watches a movie. Life can easily slide into the routine that everything is about work and that hook can have unsavoury results.
Overwhelm, heavy workloads, and high demand can take their toll on the quality of leadership and on the leader’s ability to cope:
- The enthusiasm that inspired everyone to participate in the shared vision can lose its momentum and spill over to the others in a group.
- Depression can set in which affects productivity, constricts growth and dulls the desire to innovate or participate fully.
- A sense of feeling trapped in the relentless responsibility can cause numbing fatigue and continual stress.
- Becoming emotionally flat can result in lack of communication, connection and collaboration with others and can significantly alter relationships. Where the leader was interactive and engaged, they are now less caring and distant leaving the group confused and without direction.
- Unhealthy coping skills can take hold and result in avoidance behaviours, denial that there is anything needing attention, letting pride get in the way of reaching out for help, and focusing on the future (wishing, hoping) rather than dealing with the present.
These signs of imbalance and inevitable burnout can be buried under denial or the conditioned behaviour of always ‘pushing through’ with the false belief that they can ‘do it all’ no matter what. In the chaos of collapse, it can also feel like there has been a severing of connection to self and other intimate relationships.
So how does a leader ‘push through’ and remain competent as well as restore that lost connection to their soul and their humanity?
- Take time out to revisit and reconnect with the vision and spark that inspired
- Reach out for help and delegate responsibilities to trusted others
- Realise the isolation and ask for support and comfort from safe and loving sources (family, therapist, friends) or other leaders who struggle too
- Make time for personal time to refresh and renew your connection to yourself, refresh your creative juices and rest.
- Establish a practice of meditation
- Spend time playing or connecting with your spouse or children – go for a walk
- Find something you love to do and do it often
- Regularly attend dedicated time away retreats that are devoted to self-care and restoration, that relax your mind and feed your soul.
“There is more to life than increasing its speed.” ~Mohandas K. Gandhi
Being a leader can be a profound calling that offers the opportunity to contribute much to the world and to others. Its challenges are also callings to balance your inner life with the external demands. Leadership needs both to create the change that it can.