Leadership Burnout: A Simple Way to Re-engage

Is there a simple way to begin to support leadership development and cultivate the ability to lead with excellence? Happily, there is.
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This post is part of a series on Cultivating Leadership Presence through Mindfulness. The series will culminate in a four-day mindful leadership retreat in New York in October 2013. While the October Mindful Leadership Retreat is now filled, we are happy to announce the opening of registration for the early April, New York-based Mindful Leadership Retreat. For details, visit http://www.mindfulleadership.com/.

All too often, we as leaders lose our way. Rather than face into what is most important, we allow ourselves to get pulled into the surrounding chaos or distracted by the 'emergency of the day' while the truly important matters are left unattended. And, over time, we can begin to feel as though this is simply the way it is, even as we also notice a sense of loss, anger or frustration.

We know that we are failing to lead with the kind of excellence that we are innately capable of exhibiting. Missed opportunities, lack of innovation, ethical mistakes, and loss of productivity can be the result. And that isn't even the end of the story!

The personal and professional impact of this day-to-day autopilot existence is burnout and disengagement. We begin to feel as though we are simply going through the motions, or barely making it through the day. We lose our passion, our joy and our motivation. We miss our lives and when we are not present for the moments of our life, there is no chance that we can lead with the kind of excellence we need today. This is true whether we are talking about leading our own lives, a team, an organization, a classroom or a medical practice.

We simply can't afford to have such widespread disaffection. We live in a time when we need to take advantage of every leadership opportunity that comes our way. So, is there a simple way to begin to support leadership development and cultivate the ability to lead with excellence? Happily, there is.

You can begin with a Purposeful Pause :

Take a few moments right now to simply stop what you are doing, sit comfortably and notice how your body is feeling. Tight, loose, awake, tired, sore, heavy, at ease? Attending to the body's sensations is a great way to bring ourselves out of the chaos and back into this moment. There is no need to change whatever you are noticing right now. All that is needed is that you pay attention to what your body is feeling.

When you are ready, ask yourself this question: What is one thing that I can change about my schedule that will create some space in my day? It need not be anything dramatic. A fifteen minute space is fine. Just create some space for you to step off the autopilot treadmill and be 'in your own good company' each day. Your 'space' is just for you-sit quietly, take a walk, actually taste the food you have chosen for lunch, have a cup of tea-whatever will allow you to take a real break from the churning of life. The only 'rule' is no multi-tasking!!! Don't look at Twitter while you walk, check out YouTube while you eat, etc.

This simple exercise can be a powerful beginning to more clearly see how you are meeting your life and the choices you are making each day. It can also be the space that allows you to discover again the focus, creativity and compassion that are easily lost in lives that are filled with too much busyness and too many distractions.

Try it for a week. What do you have to gain?

Note: The Purposeful Pause is part of the mindful leadership curricula from the Institute for Mindful Leadership (www.InstituteforMindfulLeadership.org)

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