Because leadership is challenging and never-ending, many leaders are prone to exhaustion and burnout. There is always more to do, always more to accomplish, and always people disappointed. To fight the pains of leadership, wise leaders take time to continually care for their own health and their own souls. And when burnout creeps in, wise leaders make adjustments, call for help, and rest. Sadly, some leaders keep pushing. They foolishly attempt to fight through the burnout. And as they do, they grow numb. So how do you recognize numbness in your own leadership? Here are three warning signs.
1. Loss of joy
No one loves every part of their job, but if you don’t enjoy aspects of your role that at one point were very meaningful to you, beware. If seeing people impacted no longer fires you up, beware. If you have to manufacture joy because you know people are watching, beware. If the reality that you belong to Christ no longer overwhelms you, you are growing numb. Why should we have joy? The psalmist reminds us that the Lord has “put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and new wine abound” (Psalm 4:7).
2. Loss of care
As you mature, there are many things you will care less and less about. But a growing leader never cares less about people and less about the mission. If you don’t care for people or the mission as much as you once did, your heart is growing numb.
3. Loss of community
The pain of leadership can tempt leaders to isolate themselves. When you are alone, you won’t be backstabbed, let down, or endure painful criticism. But when you are isolated, your heart will grow cold. Hebrews 3:13 challenges us to encourage one another as long it is called today so we will not be hardened by sin’s deceit. Wise leaders fight the temptation of isolation so they can be encouraged and not grow numb. If you are more and more alone, you are simultaneously more and more numb.
If you sense yourself growing numb, run toward community, not away from it. Give up. Don’t keep persisting through the burnout. Ask the Lord to return to you the joy of His salvation and to give you a heart that cares.
Eric Geiger is the Senior Pastor of Mariners Church in Irvine, California. Before moving to Southern California, Eric served as senior vice-president for LifeWay Christian. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary.