Note: This article was originally featured in Forbes.
If you are like most of the leaders I work with, you might be feeling overloaded, overworked and overwhelmed right now. And it’s all for good reasons.
We’re in the midst of a mass manager migration. Being a leader is perhaps more demanding and less rewarding than it’s ever been, given pandemic-induced difficulties like high employee turnover and the headaches of remote working.
The bottom line is that the pandemic has made a challenging role even more so over the past two years. And more than ever before, a leadership role is simply not for everyone. I have always held a deep respect for people who, after carefully considering a potential leadership position alongside their own skills, interests, goals and responsibilities, ultimately say, “You know what? Not for me.” This shows self-awareness, foresight and respect for the people to whom you’re accountable.
And still, despite the upheavals of the pandemic, there will always be those who feel called to lead and who perform their duties with care, decisiveness and effectiveness.
After two years of prolonged uncertainty, of deep changes in society and of chronic stress, it’s a critical time for leaders to ask themselves a hard question: Which of these two categories do I fit into today? What’s required right now is a pause for reflection about your leadership role to determine whether you are still fully committed to it.
In my book, The Leadership Contract, I present four terms and conditions that everyone in a leadership role must understand and live up to. These terms and conditions are also beneficial in helping you recommit to your leadership role.
1. Leadership is a decision — make it. Leaders need to be all in and fully committed to being the best leaders they can be. However, the challenges and pressures we’ve been facing over the past couple of years (and most likely will continue to face) are extraordinary. As you reflect on your current leadership role, ask yourself: are you still fully committed to being the best leader you can be? There is an expectation that leaders are always all in. But in practice, I find that’s not always the case.
2. Leadership is an obligation — step up. Take a few minutes to think about what your primary obligation as a leader is right now. Who needs you the most? Often having a clear sense of purpose as a leader helps one to deal with the complexity and challenges faced in the role.
3. Leadership is hard work — get tough. To what extent are you investing time to build your personal resilience and resolve? As leaders, we can’t be of any benefit to those we lead if we aren’t ensuring we have the capacity to lead.
4. Leadership is a community — connect. In our leadership programs, we often ask leaders if they have a set of relationships with peers and colleagues that they can count on in tough times. It’s surprising and very concerning how few leaders say they do. It doesn’t have to be this way. It’s critical that you spend time building your own community where you can get the support and encouragement you need to lead in challenging times.
That last one is especially challenging right now. But the importance of a leadership community is unwavering: Organizations need to find a way to build a great sense of community among their leaders. Leadership has always been a lonely endeavor, but in a world of hybrid work, more and more leaders are feeling isolated and disconnected from each other.
This is an era that calls for a return to certain basics. Maybe these are basics we never spent much time considering in the first place. And perhaps that worked for a time, but it won’t for much longer.
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