Leaders must be decisive creative decision-makers, wise cultivators of high-impact relationships, adaptably resilient within a sea of change, and consistently deliver results that measurably and meaningfully matter. Transformational Leadership behaviors demand that we routinely bring our healthy and whole being to our work. There are indicators that few leaders in healthcare can do that today.
Consider depletion as the process leading up to burnout. It is the accumulating consequence of sustained emotional exhaustion, increasing cynicism, and the inefficiency drain that results from prolonged high levels of stress within an organizational context. The prevalence of burnout (the result of unaddressed depletion) in healthcare is now upwards twice that of other fields and accelerating. The consequences include greater medical error and harm, higher patient mortality, poorer patient experience, higher workforce turnover, enormous added financial costs due to employee turnover, and stunningly high levels of depression, anxiety, addictions and suicidal ideation.
Depleted leaders have lower levels of psychological well-being, limiting the resources they can draw upon to sustain transformational leadership behaviors. As their depletion continues, leaders will “adopt a defensive posture to conserve what little they have left,” often using self-defeating strategies to do so. Depletion can “inhibit transformational leadership behaviors and minimize leader’s ability to refrain from the enactment of abusive supervision.”
The “always on” culture that permeates many workplaces today, fueled by the abundance of asynchronous communication, the ubiquity of smartphones, and the creeping expectation of immediate response, drives depletion. The antidote to this pervasive drain is refueling, recharging, and recovery. To tap into those restorative resources, leaders must draw upon the things most often set aside. When it comes to becoming a great leader, inattention to physical, spiritual and psychological well-being, is a self-defeating exercise.
When the pressure is on, many leaders give up investing in the antidote and accelerate their 24/7 availability and long work days. These maladaptive behaviors serve only to exacerbate their growing depletion, in effect, creating a negative feedback loop which, unaddressed, ends in one place: transactional leadership and eventual burnout.
Steven Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People still has the power to inform leaders today about how to create the recovery space all leaders need. The principles he demonstrates in his Big Rock demonstration are foundational leadership decisions that reflect timeless tenets that enlighten leaders on how they might best order their schedules. If we fail to put first things first, our leadership suffers.
In his book, Simplify, Bill Hybels, advises that a leader’s calendar should reflect the leader they want to become in 6 months. What is on your schedule today that indicates whom you want to become? A habit of putting that which restores as a “Big Rock” on your calendar is a strong place to begin. A pattern of regular recovery positions you to lead with strength and wholeness.