Delegating to Avoid Burnout


This week, we'll be talking about something that a lot of us have experienced: leader burnout. When you've led for a long time, you sometimes hit a wall. You feel over-extended, over-committed, and exhausted. The responsibility, time commitment, and personal energy required of you as a leader have burned you out.

Here's what you need to know: burnout out isn't inevitable; in fact, it's avoidable. And delegation is one of the keys to avoiding it.

We all have limited supplies of time and energy. There's only so much you can do in a day or a week or a month or even a year. If you're going to succeed in the long term, you need to treat your leadership as a marathon not a sprint. That means conserving energy and using it wisely and where it's most needed.

Great leaders figure out those few things that only they can do, focus on those things, and delegate everything else to others. Delegation frees up your time, protects your energy, and gives your group members a chance to grow by taking ownership of aspects of the group experience. It's essential to great long-term leadership. It's essential to avoiding burnout.

I want to point you to a couple of different resources that talk about why delegation is important and explain how to do it. If leadership feels like a burden right now, these resources may help to ease the pressure. They can also help you to avoid allowing the pressure to build if leadership doesn't currently feel like a burden.

  • First, read (or re-read) this post from last month. It offers some practical advice about sharing tasks in your group. It also spells out the responsibilities that are unique to you as your group's leader. Remember, those are the things you need to concentrate on most. Everything else can be handled by someone else. Everything else probably ought to be handled by someone else.
  • Second, take a look at "The Fine Art of Delegation" at Michael Hyatt's Intentional Leadership blog. The post includes a 38-minute podcast in which Michael delves deeply into why delegation matters and how to do it well. He uses the example of Moses in Exodus 18 (one of the first instances of delegation in recorded history) to flesh out five levels of delegation as well as five imperatives that give you a framework for applying what he's talking about. It's a really great post—definitely worth 40 or so minutes of your time.

Have you experienced leader burnout? How did it happen? What did you do to combat it?