Four Warning Signs of an Overwhelmed Leader
In an ideal world, before starting a new leadership position you would have the space to develop goals as well as a vision of what you want to achieve as a new leader. However, this is almost never the case. One day you’re an employee and the next you’re the manager. When this happens, a new leader won’t have had the time to align their vision with their actions and can easily become overwhelmed by the tasks ahead rather than seeing the bigger picture. This lack of vision and goal alignment can result in new leader starting to micromanage through poor delegation, incomplete information sharing, or excessive meetings. This becomes a challenge because without the adequate skills and support it can lead to mistrust, meaningless tasks and resentment from subordinates.
Constant state of damage control
A common trait of an overwhelmed leader is that they experience “decision freeze”.
Paralysed by the pressure to make the right decisions (and the lack of vision mentioned above), the new leader goes into a frozen state of stress. They appear idle to the outsider, halting new ideas and managing issues only when they become urgent. While this can be a common position for many leaders, new and experienced, it is not a sustainable approach and can lead to a highly stressful and tense working environment for the whole team.
Increased rumours and corridor talk
Overwhelmed leaders often deal with their team ineffectively, in one of two ways. Either they will hold an excessive number of meetings, trying to keep everything in their control, or they will let everyone continue as normal and communicate very little with the team.
This second style of communication can often lead to team members finding ways to discuss and gossip about leadership outside of formal channels. Corridor talk is dangerous to a new leader and it can quickly break down trust and affect the healthy, transparent dialogue needed to work together effectively.
“Head in the sand” approach
When one is promoted into leadership there are a lot of unspoken expectations and responsibilities that come into play – having a hand on the pulse of the team is just one of them.
An effective leader knows each of their team member’s strengths, goals and working style, and can manage the individual to further the outcomes of the team. However, as a new leader this awareness takes time and as there are so many tangible responsibilities to attend to, they may often neglect (consciously or unconsciously) this subtle but essential duty of their position.
A “head in the sand” approach becomes obvious when decisions are made without the leader’s knowledge, when absenteeism increases, or when employee retention rises. Employees need to be recognised and validated for their individual contributions to the outcomes of the team, the lack of which can quickly lead to dissatisfaction and disengagement. A new leader needs to be able to see the individual value of each team member and communicate this authentically – a skill which is not easy to learn under pressure.
So what now?
Stepping into a leadership position will always be challenging and it will take time to become comfortable with new responsibilities; however, a leader that has been given adequate skills and support will be more resilient to these difficulties and is more likely to succeed in their new role.
Equipping leaders with the skills, knowledge and personal awareness needed to be a meaningful leader is our job. At 4Seeds we believe that all leaders are unique and that with the right knowledge and support they can all become meaningful leaders for their teams and organisations.