Pulling Yourself Out of a Leadership Funk


Many of us are languishing right now.

According to The New York Times, languishing is the dominant emotion of 2021. Languishing is the middle ground between depression and thriving. It’s a sort of blah, aimless, stuck feeling that can be the end result of the kind of prolonged stress we’ve all been feeling during the pandemic.

Another word for it might be a funk. I’ve written before about how leaders, just like great artists, can hit patches where they feel passionless and uninspired. Maybe you’ve lost your passion. Maybe you find yourself complaining more often. Maybe you’re letting small details slide.

After the year we’ve all lived through, it’s understandable. But it’s a problem when you are in a leadership role, and one you need to address head-on.


Languishing diminishes your productivity and increases your risk of more serious mental health issues.

Languishing—that blah feeling of being in a funk—can be a warning sign of more serious
problems to come. It drastically increases your risk of suffering a major depressive episode.

Even if you don’t slip further into depression, being in a funk can already affect your life. You may find yourself letting things slide at work or at home. You may cut back on the hours you’re working or simply get less done when you are trying to work. You may also find you’re skipping chores or failing to make or follow through on plans with friends.


A leadership funk can pull a whole team into a downward spiral.

As a leader, you have a responsibility not only to yourself but to your team. If you find yourself in a funk, you need to admit your problem and commit to getting out of it now. Staying bogged down in a funk will not only hurt your career as a leader, it will bring down your organization as well.

When you as a leader start letting things slide, your team will notice. It will affect their motivation. They’ll start thinking, If she’s not even going to notice, why would I bother? This discouraged, unmotivated attitude can spread throughout your team and even begin to affect your larger organization if you don’t step up and work to fix it.


Find ways to reconnect to your purpose.

Funks can be difficult to shed. There is a lack of hope and optimism that comes with being in a funk that can convince some leaders that there’s no way out.

As leaders, however, we know there is always a way out if we work hard enough to solve the problem. For those of you suffering from a funk, here are some ideas to consider:

  1. Admit that you’re in a funk. Funks are easy to get into and often hard to escape. Like
    any great personal challenge, the first step is to admit you have a problem and then
    seek help as soon as possible. Some leaders resist accepting this reality. Many push on and end up fooling themselves and others that everything is fine. Well, I’m here to tell you that if you are in a funk, everything isn’t fine. Push your ego aside and accept it. It’s the only way to get back on track.
  2. Stop whining. It’s easy to feel the victim. Complaining can quickly become a habit.
    Once it sets in, it makes it harder for you to break out of a funk. So stop it! Even if it’s justified, stop it! You’ll claim a small victory.
  3. Find your source of inspiration. Many leaders find inspiration within. Others may have to look elsewhere for that spark. I find my greatest sources of inspiration are my team and clients. I spend time chatting with members of my team. I see their commitment and energy, and it immediately has a positive effect on me.
  4. Reconnect to your personal leadership story. All leaders have a story, those defining
    moments that shaped who we are and how we lead. One leader I worked with said that whenever she found herself in a funk, she thought back on all of the leaders she worked with early in her career. Specifically, she focused on her mentor and the example he set.
  5. Talk to a trusted colleague. Sometimes the best way to get out of a funk is to have
    someone else shake you up. We all need a trusted colleague, someone who knows you and can be counted on to be frank and honest. Seek their counsel and be open to the straight goods.

A chronic funk serves no one and can be a leader’s undoing if left unchecked. Put these ideas into action and challenge yourself to step up as a leader – your team and organization need you to be at your best.

Can you pull yourself out of a leadership funk?

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