Regardless of the leadership style in which you align, a huge part of leadership involves serving. We serve when we listen, offer guidance, advocate, physically assist, and use our roles to influence others. However, doing this day in and day out can be exhausting. Right now, during stay-at-home orders, your way of leading may look a bit chaotic. Professionally, you’re assisting your work teams, having Zoom meeting with them and other colleagues, answering emails around the clock, and attempting to be the sane, stable figure that your direct reports need. For me, it feels like I’ve stepped into a counselor’s role half of the time. Other need their leader to be the sounding board during a time of change, and COVID-19 has brought about serious change!
At home, you may be trying to get your house organized, help your spouse with their work, and (if you have children) crisis schooling the children as well. If you’re like me, you’re the home manager or co-manager. This is another act of round-the-clock serving with little end in sight. Then, if you have the time to pay attention to the needs of our community groups, there’s work to be done there too. This equates to one tired, overwhelmed person, all in the name of leadership. So, where’s the BREAK?
Now that we’ve moved online, it’s harder to actually take time away from the hustle and bustle of life. Mixing the online work world with the offline world is a challenge because there’s no tangible separation. Before COVID-19, you may have left the house to go to your office. Then, after a long day, left your office to head home. That ride home every day to my second job (wife and mother) was my break. That was the time that I mentally decompressed from my day at work and got ready for my home life and everything that came with it. Like many people, if I chose to do any work after the kids went to bed, that was my choice. But now, anyone can reach me at any time, and the expectation is that I will quickly answer – they know I’m home anyway! And this is where the problem lies: Our lives have morphed into a bubble with no walls of separation. So the break that is often needed as a leader (we all lead in some way) is no longer readily available. It’s not instantaneous. That’s why it’s important – now more than ever- to deliberately take time to B.R.E.A.K:
Breathe: Take some deep breaths throughout the day. This relieves stress and tension and helps you think clearly.
Rest: Take time to rest. I won’t preach the 8 hour rest (I don’t even get that); however, get a reasonable amount of rest and invest in naps (when you can).
Engage with others for your benefit, only. With this engagement, you’re not a mentor, a counselor, a shoulder to cry on, or someone to vent to. This is about you connecting with others for yourself. You talk, you laugh, you vent, you cry. It’s all good for you.
Acknowledge your own needs and what they are, exactly. You can’t ask for help if you don’t know what you need.
Know that things will be alright if you set boundaries with others, especially during this time. Stop taking calls after a certain hour. Don’t answer your email past X o’clock or on weekends. It’s going to be alright if you’re not ever-present.
As a leader, regardless of where you are, BREAKs are needed. In order to serve others in the best way, you’ve got to find time to recharge. That’s when you’re at your best.
Keep on leading!