Leadership and Burnout, Pt. 1

Like I mentioned in Tuesday’s post, I am developing a talk for the LifeGroup leaders at church regarding personal responsibility and stress. As I have considered possible causes for leader stress, particularly in the church, there are a few that keep crossing my mind: 

  • “Superman (or woman) complex”

As leaders, many of us struggle with an inflated sense of self-importance. If we don’t help someone, no one can/will. Or so we believe. So we expend all of our energy meeting the needs of others, leaving a limited supply for ourselves.

  • Poor boundaries

The work day of a church leader (staff or volunteer) is not determined by a task list as much as the ebb and flow of life. Conversations take place, issues arise, decisions need to be made. Unfortunately on some days, none of this can be predicted at the beginning of the day. It just sort of happens. How do you decide when to say yes and when to say no? It all seems so important.

  • The blurry line separating leader and friend

We lead because it’s the role we fill. But we are friends and family and community too. We lead and we serve simultaneously.

  • Identity issues  

We promote gaining true identity in Christ and yet often times we seek a sense of identity from what we do and from how much we do.

  • Fear of disappointing people

We want to do more and be more to people. We want them to walk away from our presence happier and more whole. I recently found out that someone I counseled walked away from our session angry at how our conversation went and unhappy that I was the one he had to meet with, instead of someone who would “get it” more (which is code for: someone who would tell him what he wanted to hear – rather than reflect back to him what is actually going on in his own heart and behavior). It is taking everything in me not to become paralyzed in stress. I hate when people are disappointed in me.

Leaders, especially in the church, carry stress around like extra holiday weight. It’s heavy, it hurts our backs and while it’s easy to come by, it’s hard to lose.

Stress leads to burnout and physical, emotional and intellectual aches and pains.

Over the next few posts I’ll continue to address this issue. From the signs and symptoms of stress to some strategies for stress relief so stay tuned…

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