The exhausted leader

BUSINESS MATTERS (BEYOND THE BOTTOM LINE) - Francis J. Kong - The Philippine Star

Over two years into the pandemic, people’s emotions have been subjected to a roller-coaster-like ride. One moment we experience fear as we hear of friends or people known to us succumbing to the virus. Another moment we fear is that we have to close down the business and reduce headcounts to survive without knowing when the pandemic will end. Customers cannot pay, and suppliers cannot deliver. Kids cannot go to school, and the constant barrage of alarming news from protests, mass killings, shootings, nations at war, and high inflation fills the mind with more than enough bad news we can take.

As a leader, I am sure you get tired. And you are not alone. You were still leading and taking charge in all the emotionally volatile moments. The reopening of the economy provides us relief and momentary joy. But leaders have returned to work. They continue to lead and work with higher goals to attain and more work to do for the rest of the year.

You are not alone if you entertain a feeling of exhaustion and are a little tired.

While the primary focus of HR and execs is on the well-being of their workforce, we also need to face the fact that exhaustion, stress, and anxiety are rising to be growing problems in leadership. And it is not a good thing. Leaders must refrain from running on empty for long as they will end up doing the wrong things they may regret for a long time.

It has been observed that behind those juicy headlines announcing the moral collapse of church leaders, scandals from politicians, and even well-known athletes, the most common denominator found in them was they were exhausted and tired. You need to make sure that this does not happen to you. And here are a few ideas I hope you may find helpful if you qualify as an “exhausted leader.”

There are a million definitions of what leadership means and what it intends to do. The simplest definition of them all is that the primary role of leadership is to get things down. As a leader, you are tasked to provide “outputs.” You do have to produce results. Results come in different forms, like financial wins, targets, stretch goals, etc.

The question now is, what about your “inputs?”

Monitor your inputs vs your outputs and create a healthy ratio

You must have enough inputs to churn out more outputs; just like a bank account, your “outputs” must be matched. While 70 or 80 percent of what I do is in speaking, training, writing, and preparing lessons, I devote at least a healthy 20-30 percent of my total work time to studying, reading, and researching. I have work that does not require a fixed eight or 10 hours in a physical confine; I leave this to you to creatively create your input Activities. If your outputs are not matched with healthy inputs, just like a bank account, you will go bankrupt morally, spiritually, mentally, and physically.

Your “inputs” also include adequate rest, sleep, nutrition, and exercise when the physical body is concerned. Others involve life-giving relationships, learning, and growth, and remembering the one most potent force for healthy input, which is to have clean fun.

Rest is not laziness. On the contrary, you are tired. The definition of laziness, courtesy of the legendary Zig Ziglar, is taking rests even before you get tired. And rest should not propel you to a guilt trip but is essential for healthy outputs.

There was a time when you and I used to “go to work.” But technology today has made work come to us, so leaders are “always on.” Work continues to seek us, and more must be done. And then there are distractions from non-stop news feeds and the like. Not having enough sleep makes us stressed, and now our whole life is accessible at work.

Work responsibilities for the leader continue to escalate. There will be more to do. More clients to acquire, more improvements to be made, more changes to institute, and more people to serve. There is no finish line.

While leaders are so good at devising their business strategies, they may need to improve in strategizing their work and personal life. And this should not be.

Take a moment to study your input vs output ratio, devise a personal life and work strategy, and get healthy. You may be a leader, but you are no Superman.

(Francis Kong’s podcast “Inspiring Excellence” is now available on Spotify, Apple, Google, or other podcast streaming platforms.)

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