By Dolores Reidenbach, RN, MA

Leaders make things happen. They’re overcomers, strategizers, coaches, and getter-done people.

… But then came COVID.

The pandemic blew up the principles of leadership. The concepts, approaches, and styles suddenly didn’t apply—seemed superficial and even useless while ships were on fire. 

Crisis leadership was the mode. Prepared or not, leaders dealt with rapid-fire chaos to keep their ships from sinking.

And that constant stress has taken its toll.

Too Tired for Tips

In my mental health practice, I hear about leadership fatigue, burnout, malaise—people looking for an exit.

Recently, articles have been appearing about the critical need to motivate leaders to lead their teams out of the funk of COVID’s wake. I see tips for how to refocus on motivating and encouraging the team to hang on and in there. But people glance over the articles and close them—too tired to wade through the details, much less be energized to pull up the bootstraps and go at it.

How do you lead when you are worn out, wandering, and without answers?

How do you lead when you have no idea where you’re going?

How do you paint the sunrise of hope for your team when you are no longer able to see it?

Finding Your Way

Finding your way out of the vacuum is a personal and individual journey. But leaders are called to be overcomers.

  • Overcomers gather strength from self-care. 
  • Overcomers acknowledge the truth of all they have been through and dig deep to decide they are not staying there, come hell or high water. 
  • Overcomers rise up in fatigue and sweat, tattered and wartorn, to put one foot in front of the other, putting in the time to rehabilitate and recover from the war times.

This work is unavoidable if you want to revitalize your ability to lead.

The Truth About Self-Care

Restorative self-care is a process. It takes time and vulnerability and willingness to admit to the scars. And it’s wildly individual. There is no way to create a group self-care program, process, or event that will meet everyone’s individual needs. That’s why no one does it.

Self-care involves dumping out your experience, sorting through it with an objective party. It requires perspective-taking, decision-making, commitment to recovery time, and commitment to a customized self-care plan that is unique to you.

Try to sidestep this process, and you will find yourself leaving the leadership role. 

The numbness and emptiness of the leadership COVID battle are real. It can be ignored and pushed down into the body, but it will sprout in disease, it will ooze out in relationships, and it may become a driver of addiction or other unhealthy coping.

Get back in the game. Find a therapist who can hear, listen, help sort thoughts, and decipher the difference—and guide decision-making about each of them. 

By overcoming, you can lead your team to their own recovery too. That’s what leaders do.

Dolores Reidenbach, the founder of InnerMe Solutions, is a counseling therapist, registered nurse, executive leader, and entrepreneur who works with clients to find their pathway back to a life full of meaning. She offers leaders individualized, validated assessments for emotional-health restoration in a short-term, telehealth format.