Four Ways to Combat Burnout & Ensure Leaders of the Future Can Succeed

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The following article was originally published in Ad Age.

When Jacinda Ardern announced her resignation as prime minister of New Zealand recently, it felt like a blow to me, and I’m certain to many working parents. A global icon admitting she just didn’t have “enough in the tank” to do justice to the job hit hard. Her decision highlights a growing crisis and exposes that we’re entering a new era of leadership that many are reluctant to join.

It’s no secret that the cognitive load of the last three years has brought many of us to a breaking point. We don’t have to be leading countries to feel gassed in our own leadership roles. Women dear to me, at the top of their games, are walking away from their roles because they’ve hit breaking points. And I don’t blame them one bit. We’re exhausted, stressed and facing yet another year of economic uncertainty and bewildering injustices in the world.

It forces the question: Can any of us lead anymore?

To be a strong leader today requires elevated levels of empathy, resilience and stamina. The last three years have helped us stockpile these traits. And now they are the norm moving forward. Bringing new energy to each day and helping to fuel and inspire those around us requires a constant reserve that many of us no longer have. So how do you lead others in the years ahead when your own tank is depleted?

Find your outlets

I feel lucky to have great support at home and amazing co-workers with whom I can have honest conversations about the challenges we face. But relying on these support systems alone isn’t enough. Seek an outlet beyond the inner circle of people who are facing your same stresses. Having a sounding board who is outside of your day-to-day brings critical perspective and can help you rethink and find new solutions.

Find your why

Most marketers understand the importance of helping brands find their authentic purpose and how it unlocks value for an organization. Similarly, taking stock of our own reason for being in our role can help bring clarity and renewed ambition.

Find your focus

How many times have you heard the expression “don’t boil the ocean”? Now is the time to heed that advice. If it can be deprioritized, take it off the list. It’s not gratifying to do a lot of things minimally well. Be exceedingly choosy about where you can make the biggest impact and focus your time and attention there.

Find time for you

Take time off and when you’re off, be off. Get sleep. Be human. Drink water. Get outside. All these behaviors add up and make a real difference in your physical and emotional well-being. And what’s even more impactful is when you set this example, it can create a culture of healthy habits.

We have been living, working and leading through a collective crisis. And we’re responding normally to years of overwhelming challenges. Leading well through this time is still possible, but not without change. Adopting and normalizing a new kind of leadership style is critical to combating burnout and ensuring the leaders of the future can succeed.