In the Q&A blogs, I answer a question that I have been asked recently by a developing leader. This month the question is: As a leader, what do you do when your passion wanes?
Leadership can be demanding. Leaders can become weary, even exhausted. Passion can evaporate and we plod forward, almost numb to the work at hand.
What to do in that situation?
It will sound similar to that elementary school presentation from the fireman… who said, “if you catch on fire . . . STOP, DROP, ROLL.”
If you lose your passion for leading your team, it is the same kind of emergency. Here’s what you must do:
STOP. REFUEL. REIGNITE.
- Stop moving forward and assess the situation. When did you last feel passionate about leading your team? What were the conditions that led to your passion? What has happened in recent days that has taken the air out of your balloon?
I remember a time when I was trying to convince my peers to launch a new technology. At the beginning of the project, I was so passionate and excited about the potential launch. But as I was challenged by peer questions and defeated by failures in the technology testing, it was difficult to stay passionate. Numerous times, I had to re-visit the purpose for launching that technology – so that our company could have a distinctive competitive advantage. I re-read the customer’s focus group responses where they expressed the need for the technology. I reviewed the analysis of how this technology would help grow market share. I stopped and reminded myself “why” this project mattered.
When your passion wavers, revisit the basis for your leadership initiative. Remember why the idea was exciting at the beginning. Go back and get that original passion.
- Refuel your passion by taking a break. Often when our passion wanes, we are simply worn out. We need rest. If you are moving at the speed of light and can’t remember the last time you had a good night’s sleep or a fun time with friends, it is time to take a break.
Often taking the break is counterintuitive. The situation at work may be very demanding, perhaps a full-blown crisis. It seems absurd to think you could walk away and take a break.
But the reality is – an exhausted leader is not much help to the team.
Perhaps you can’t take a two week vacation to recover your passion – but you certainly can find a four hour window to take a long walk, enjoy a meal with a friend, or watch a couple episodes of your favorite sitcom.
In a New York Times blog, Tim Kreider says it this way: “Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body . . . it is paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.”
- Reignite your passion with your team. Let them know that you are back – and why!
After regaining your original passion for the work at hand, let your team what happened. The best way to help your team stay passionate and highly engaged is to be honest with them. Leaders DO lose their mojo – and need time to recover their passion. Acknowledge this reality to your team. By doing so, you are role-modeling an important leadership lesson. You are helping the team know that it is normal and natural to lose your passion from time to time. Give them permission to restore their by revisiting their personal purpose and taking regular breaks to rejuvenate their souls.
Serving your team well includes teaching them the way you cope with the pressures of leadership. Your transparency about the challenges will help prepare the next generation of leaders on your team.
Revisit and restore your passion. For the sake of the people you serve.