Leading Through Exhaustion

Young woman in office looking exhaustedBy Kathleen Federici, MEd

As I hear stories from others, a common theme is exhaustion. The pandemic has taken a toll on all of us in some way or another and unexpected and rapid changes have left some in a state of fatigue. Not only are we dealing with the effects of the pandemic, but life goes on and things we don’t necessarily want to happen can and do, often without warning.

The universe has met me where I am  and emailed me an unsolicited article from the Chronicle of Higher Education, written by Denise Magner titled Your Career: Leading Through Emotional Exhaustion. I laughed when I saw this in my inbox because I have never received any email from the Chronicle of Higher Education previously and the timing made me shake my head as I am working through a personal challenge at the moment.

The article describes that if a leader is stressed, he or she still must  motivate and raise morale. How can this be possible when they are feeling the opposite?

The Mayo Clinic defines emotional exhaustion as “when stress begins to accumulate from negative or challenging events in life that just keep coming.” A mishandled conversation due to stress or exhaustion between a manager and an employee can do a lot of long-term damage. It is important to understand how others process information before you begin a heavy conversation. Get to know their side of the story before taking action. Be gentle. Recognize that one or two bad days do not negate contributions as a whole. No leader wants to lose a valuable employee, especially currently.

It’s normal to be exhausted and at times struggle with how to lead. Advice that I took from this article is to take one day at a time and be relatable. Do your best to be approachable. And remember we are all going through stuff, some heavier than others, so be gentle and practice empathy as you lead.

Kathleen Federici, MEd, is IPMI’s director of professional development.