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5 Steps When You’re Overwhelmed as a Leader

As a leader, there have been numerous times when I have been in over my head with the challenges and opportunities I was facing. God seems to call me to huge tasks. I’m there again in my new assignment.

I suspect if you’re a leader, you understand. I think He does that to many people! It keeps us humble. And, dependent — on Him!

Regardless of how comfortable a leader may be in his or her position…

  • There are times when the leader has no answers.
  • He or she has exhausted every bit of knowledge gained.
  • The current strategies don’t seem to work anymore.
  • The situation is beyond the current plans and systems.
  • People are complaining.
  • Expectations upon you are greater than you feel you have capacity to deliver.
  • It seems you’re on a treadmill — getting no where.
  • Some days you leave thinking you accomplished nothing — maybe even most days.
  • You are so overwhelmed you don’t know what to attempt first.

Ever been there? Did you think someone was talking to me about you?

When the leader doesn’t know what to do and/or doesn’t have a clue what to do next, here are some suggestions:

Admit – The first step is to be honest with where you are currently as a leader. Pretending to know the answers when you don’t know them will not solve the problem. Most of the time, the people you are leading already know your inadequacies. Come clean. You’re overwhelmed. No shame. All of us have been there at times.

Pause – It’s okay to take a break to clear your head. It could be an afternoon, a day, or a week, but sometimes you just need to get away from the situation long enough to gain a fresh perspective. I often disappear from the office Thursday afternoons on especially difficult weeks. I may take a long run, mow my grass, pray or read. The busier the season — the more overwhelmed I feel — the more I need to pause. I know it sounds counter-productive. It’s not. At all. It’s life-giving.

Seek help – Find a mentor who has walked where you are currently walking. I have several older men I call when I’m maxed out with stress. There is a benefit in surrounding yourself with people smarter than you about a matter. This is the time for the believer to rely more than ever on his or her faith; trusting that the God who called them to the task will be faithful to complete it. (1 Thess 5:24)

Learn – Leaders should always be teachable. Again, assuming or pretending to have all the answers only slows or curtails projects and is quickly be discovered by others. Stretch yourself and learn something new. Read. Definitely be reading. Attend a conference. Listen to some TED talks or sermons from pastors you admire. Feed your mind. It needs some new energies.

Improve – Make better checklists each day. Spend more time planning. Learn to better delegate. I always say, you have to get better before you can get bigger. As you learn improvements needed, be willing to change. The tighter you hold onto methods that aren’t working the longer you’ll delay moving forward. Push through the overwhelming period and become a stronger, more capable and better leader. You can do it!

Do you need help? Are you overwhelmed? Start the process towards getting better.

I’m pulling for you — and I’ll trade you a prayer!

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 9 Comments

  • As a leader I completely understand and it's a tough position to be in on many days but it's very rewarding as well. Interestingly enough, I've used each tip that was outlined in this article and I think that each one is necessary considering everything that you deal with on any given day in the professional workplace. It's a battleground and you need these things to create some semblance of balance to be able to continue to consistently and effectively address the challenges of the day.

  • yvonne1wilson says:

    Been at that place so many times and could not agree with you more on these suggestions. I believe this has the same meaning as pause, but one of the things that I do is just 'be still' in His presence and know that He is God. Great post! Thanks for sharing.

  • JeffMckee says:

    Great reminders! As a pastor, these are wonderful tips for staying on track especially during times of inevitable uncertainty! Thanks for sharing !

  • kmac4him

    Great Wisdom! I especially like the mentor one… I not only seek out a mentor but a "prayer mentor"! I feel like God always puts me way out in the deep, way over my head. As long as I stay focused on HIM, keeping my call to Him 1st, clinging to HIM, I am okay. BUT, if I try to kindle my own fire and walk by the light of a man made fire… that eventually flames out… Oh the emotional torment… YIKES!!