How many of us can really say that we are at the top of our game everyday? It seems that the objective for leaders is to perform at a high level, in challenging environments, consistently. And yet, this is a challenge for many of the executives and leaders that I work with. I often work with leaders who are exhausted. Fourteen years ago I struggled with exhaustion too, I was in a senior executive position and felt that most decisions I made were life or death, of course they weren’t, but that is how I was feeling.
So how does this exhaustion impact our ability to lead? In a recent paper ‘The depleted leader: The influence of leaders’ psychological resources on leadership behaviours’ the researchers sought to find out just how a leaders’ mental and emotional state impacted their ability to be transformational leaders.
As a reminder, transformational leadership includes;
- Individualized Consideration – the degree to which the leader attends to each follower’s needs, acts as a mentor or coach to the follower and listens to the follower’s concerns and needs. The leader gives empathy and support, keeps communication open and places challenges before the followers. This also encompasses the need for respect and celebrates the individual contribution that each follower can make to the team. The followers have a will and aspirations for self-development and have intrinsic motivation for their tasks.
- Intellectual Stimulation – Such leaders encourage their followers to be innovative and creative. They encourage new ideas from their followers and never criticize them publicly for the mistakes committed by them. The leaders focus on the “what” in problems and do not focus on the blaming part of it. They have no hesitation in discarding an old practice set by them if it is found ineffective.
- Inspirational Motivation – the degree to which the leader articulates a vision that is appealing and inspiring to followers. Leaders with inspirational motivation challenge followers to leave their comfort zones, communicate optimism about future goals, and provide meaning for the task at hand. Followers need to have a strong sense of purpose if they are to be motivated to act. Purpose and meaning provide the energy that drives a group forward. The visionary aspects of leadership are supported by communication skills that make the vision understandable, precise, powerful and engaging. The followers are willing to invest more effort in their tasks, they are encouraged and optimistic about the future and believe in their abilities.
- Idealized Influence – the degree to which the leader acts as a role model for their followers. Transformational leaders must embody the values that the followers should be learning and mimicking back to others. If the leader gives respect and encourages others to be better, those influenced will then go to others and repeat the positive behavior, passing on the leadership qualities for other followers to learn. This will earn the leader more respect and admiration from the followers, putting them at a higher level of influence and importance. The foundation of transformational leadership is the promotion of consistent vision, mission, and a set of values to the members. Their vision is so compelling that they know what they want from every interaction. Transformational leaders guide followers by providing them with a sense of meaning and challenge. They work enthusiastically and optimistically to foster the spirit of teamwork and commitment.
The researchers measured the impact of anxiety, depression and alcohol consumption on either transformation leadership or abusive supervision. They defined abusive supervision as ‘inappropriate verbal or non verbal hostility’. They found that leaders who had high levels of anxiety or depression or alcohol consumption were more likely to be abusive supervisors, whereas, leaders low in these domains were more likely to be transformational. They concluded that the mindset of the leaders and their psychological well-being is an effective predictor of their ability to lead.
So if you want to lead effectively the state of your psychological well being is fundamental. If you want to lead well, consistently then it requires conscious effort to cultivate your personal resources. Sacrificing your own mental and emotional health, may lead to short term gain, however, if you want to lead effectively and sustainably then you need to start to take care of yourself!
Clare Goodman works with leaders to build resiliency and personal sustainability. Her workshops and coaching sessions provide practical tools and techniques to help you create healthy habits. Contact Clare on firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like any more information.
The depleted leader: The influence of leaders’ diminished psychological resources on leadership behaviours (2014), Alyson Byrne, Angela Dionisi, Julian Barling, Amy Akers, Jennifer Robertson, Rebecca Lys, Jeffrey Wylie, Kathryne Dupre, The Leadership Quarterly 25 pages 344-357.