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The Leadership Burden

As a leader, you sometimes carry a burden that is almost indescribable, unless of course you have experienced it. Then, you know the feeling very well.

It is a feeling of heaviness or overwhelm leaders carry on their shoulders or weighs upon their hearts.

The feeling might come as a result of a decision you had to make. The burden or heaviness comes not from the decision itself, as it was made with great thought and thoroughness. Instead, the feeling of overwhelm comes from a strong longing or internal desire to share details of the decision with those standing in judgment, when you know you cannot or would not do so.

Leadership is not for the faint at heart, and this feeling is something you will have to experience on a great number of occasions along your leadership journey.

While leadership is filled with countless rewards and amazing moments, difficult decisions will have to be made, likely by you. There will always be a gap between what you understand and what others can know.

Standing in that gap, you will often be alone. You will be judged, questioned, or even ridiculed, all while you are processing the heaviness of the event or decision made. This, my fellow leader, is part of the job. Not what we signed up for, but it comes with the responsibility. With greatness, comes pain and challenge.

While I do not have a secret solution or remedy to make the burden or pain you feel go away, I can offer the following suggestions:

Give yourself permission to feel. What you are feeling is normal. Leaders are not supposed to be feeling-free. Leaders are relationship-builders and when your trust is betrayed or your decision is laden with emotion, do not suppress how you feel. Tough decisions will leave you feeling a whole range of emotions. Of course, feeling something is not the same as expressing emotions, which is what you will have to manage in your role.

Seek support, without sharing details. Reach out to another supervisor or leader who might have made a similar decision and talk it out without sharing confidential details. If you collaborated with another leader in making a tough call or a difficult decision, this leader may be feeling the same burden. Support each other and seek additional help, such as reaching out to your Employee Assistance Program. You can get support and understanding from others without sharing confidential details. A leadership coach can also walk alongside you as a thinking partner and sounding board.

Practice good self-care. Consider difficult decisions you have made in the past and how you dealt with such burdens. Be sure that you are practicing good self-care and not turning to bad habits to get through the difficult times. Choosing a good habit like exercising, instead of overeating or overindulging in alcohol, will help you cope better over time.

Realize you are not alone. The leadership burden is not something you are taught in a textbook or prepared for fully. Others before you struggled and those after you will too. All leaders acknowledge this overwhelming part of your journey, as we have experienced our own burdens. Thankfully, with time, the feelings of overwhelm pass and the wonderfulness of serving others outshines the pain.

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