Leader Fatigue – 4 Steps to Prevention

Many new leaders enter their first management position with stars in their eyes and high hopes for becoming the best possible leader. I was one of those starry-eyed newbies who was determined to be the best I could be. But after a few months of burning the candle at both ends, I had to do some serious soul-searching. Why was I so unhappy? After all, I had landed the promotion and was leading an entire department. I now know that I was suffering from leader fatigue.

What is Leader Fatigue?

Leader fatigue is defined as a point when overwhelm overtakes leader effectiveness. I have seen this in both new and experienced leaders. They often complain of exhaustion and are irritated at the stream of constant interruptions.

One common denominator between the new and the experienced leaders is their role as THE problem-solver. They step in whenever someone knocks on their door with a problem. By stepping in every time and solving the issue themselves, the leader inadvertently creates a team who depends on them to resolve every issue. The result? A team who lacks critical thinking skills and a leader who is overwhelmed with minutia that could be handled by someone else.

Ask Good Questions

To foster independence, promote critical thinking, and avoid leader fatigue, get better at asking good questions than giving answers.

  1. Present opportunities for critical thinking. When a problem is presented, ask, “What do you think?”  Or “What have you tried so far?”
  2. Reinforce critical thinking by supporting the team member’s ideas and solutions presented. “That is a good idea.” “That sounds like it works.” “Give that a try.”
  3. Watch for non-verbal cues about insecurity and probe further. Ask, “What about this makes you nervous or uncomfortable?” Use the opportunity to role-play possible scenarios. Reinforce good responses. “You handled that well.”
  4. Avoid micro-managing the details. Specifically, don’t take over. Be the coach and teacher, not the sole problem-solver.

These steps will help to raise independence and critical-thinking skills which will, in turn, free you up to be the leader you want to be and not the exhausted manager who spends all day putting out fires.

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