Leadership: Dealing with “COVID Fatigue”

We humans don’t do well with uncertainty and change. We demonstrate this concern every time we enter a dark room. Upon entry we turn the light on to navigate our way through the room. Entering a room can be produce even further anxiety that room is inhabited by one of our kids. Children and spouses can leave all kinds of items on the floor to surprise you. 

Have you ever stepped on a lego piece? 

Leading in this time of emerging and reinstating restrictions is like entering that dark room and avoiding those legs or other sharp objects.The challenge is also where is the light switch, and maybe it is a dimmer switch that doesn’t work well. This uncertainty creates an anxiety that is accentuated by the length of the pandemic and the economic and social unrest. Leadership expert Simon Sinek refers to COVID-19 as the “Great Revealer.” It has revealed the good, bad, and ugly of our organizations, economy, society, and especially our leadership at all levels. In times like this, our leadership is critical. People look to leadership for some level of certainty and even safety. 

 Leaders must turn the light on as much as possible in that dark room and avoid the legos or other sharp items on the floor. 

Recent articles and studies have noted persistent reports by both leaders and workers of being tired. The phrase coined to describe this is “COVID Fatigue”. “COVID Fatigue” is described as a sense of being tired and worn out. This makes perfect sense when one considers the amount of energy it takes to address the stress created by addressing the effects of the “Great Revealer.”

Recharging and Improving Energy

All people have a finite amount of energy to cope with stressors. It may be a different amount of energy for each person; however, it is still a finite amount.  The good news is that our energy to adapt to stress is renewable. Leadership can play a critical role in helping people they lead and serve to recharge their energy. The key here is that the leader must recharge themselves first and model strategies to be a model to those they serve and lead. A significant problem for leaders is providing that model.

Leaders can get caught up in the “battle”.

“You may have to fight the battle more than once to win.”

Margaret Thatcher

Sometimes a leader feels a sense of having to do it all. This trying to do all things coupled with fighting battles more than once can provide a poor model for those you serve and lead. Providing a poor model will inevitably hinder the organization’s ability to make decisions and cope with change.

Leadership is an inside outside process .What you do inside in taking care of yourself shows in your leadership on the outside to the organization or team. You as leader must take care of yourself first.

Remember the last time you flew? 

The flight attendant reminded adult passengers to attach their oxygen mask first than those in their charge second in case of lost air pressure. The same is true for your organization. If you are not taking care of yourself first, you can be modeling bad behaviors, like 1:00 am emails and inconsequential, unproductive zoom meetings, and setting a negative tone for how the organization is doing.

Lack of self-care can also be read as a sign of imminent disaster. Eventually, lack of self-care can lead to bad decision making. This lack of decision making can affect taking advantage of opportunities and organizational morale. Unattended to “COVID Fatigue” on your part as the leader will increase the team’s stress levels and, most importantly, their trust in you moving forward out of this time.

A Checklist of Gentle Reminders to Ease The Anxiety for You and Those you Lead and Serve to Move Forward

Preparing and following a checklist of gentle reminders and questions will help beat “COVID Fatigue”. Here is a sample one I have prepared below, feel free to use it or modify slightly if necessary. Start by checking off the ones you need to work on. Make a more extensive list on each individual reminder or question that needs work.

___1.Are you getting enough sleep, eating properly and exercising? 

___2.Are you practicing daily habits of relaxation, learning, and reflection?

___3.Are you clear for yourself and your team when the workday starts and ends?

___4.Are you showing up to meetings with a positive  attitude and setting a tone of moving forward and deliberately connecting with everyone on the team?

___5.Are you exceedingly human to those you serve and lead, noticing any needs for your support?

___6.Are you providing clarity to the team about “COVID Fatigue” and what you are doing and want them to do to recharge? 

  ___7.Are you clear about the purpose and direction of the organization? What is in your control and the value of everyone?

  ___8.Are you encouraging learning, creativity, and innovation?

   ___9.Are you intentionally modeling and encouraging others to relax, take earned vacation time, and have fun?

   ___10.Are you sharing stories of the team growing together and being resilient to paint a picture of purpose moving forward?


How does your checklist look?
 Do you see areas for you to improve on? 

How you address “COVID Fatigue” will be a model for all you serve and lead. A healthy, decisive leader who shows empathy and caring for all creates a legacy that will survive this time.

Leadership question for you:

What stories will your organization tell about this time and your leadership in addressing "COVID Fatigue"? 

John Hackett, Ed. D

John Hackett, Ed. D is a servant leader who helps people and organizations move from where they are to where they want to be. John is an accomplished and experienced coach, trainer, writer, and leader in a variety of educational and other nonprofit and direct sales settings. He is a growing, learning entrepreneur in coaching and training who is passionate about equipping leaders to develop other leaders to serve. John is a certified trainer and coach with the Direct Selling World Alliance. John is a coach for the FUSE Business Training and a member of the John Maxwell team!


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