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Help! I'm an Overwhelmed Leader

As a leader, there have been numerous times when I have been in over my head with the challenges and opportunities I was facing. God seems to call me to huge tasks.

I suspect if you’re a leader, you understand. I think He does that to many people! It keeps us humble. And dependent—on Him!

Regardless of how comfortable a leader may be in his or her position, there are times when …

  • The leader has no answers …
  • He or she has exhausted every bit of knowledge gained …
  • The current strategies don’t seem to work anymore …
  • The situation is beyond the current plans and systems …
  • People are complaining …
  • It seems you’re on a treadmill—getting nowhere …
  • Some days, you leave thinking you accomplished nothing—maybe even most days.

Ever been there? Did you think someone was talking to me about you?

When the leader doesn’t know what to do and/or doesn’t have a clue what to do next, here are some suggestions:

Admit—The first step is to be honest with where you are currently as a leader. Pretending to know the answers when you don’t know them will not solve the problem. Most of the time, the people you are leading already know your inadequacies. Come clean. You’re overwhelmed. No shame. All of us have been there at times.

Pause—It’s OK to take a break to clear your head. It could be an afternoon, a day or a week, but sometimes you just need to get away from the situation long enough to gain a fresh perspective. I often disappear from the office Thursday afternoons on especially difficult weeks. I may take a long run, mow my grass, pray or read. The busier the season—the more overwhelmed I feel—the more I need to pause. I know it sounds counterproductive. It’s not. At all. It’s life-giving.

Seek help—Find a mentor who has walked where you are currently walking. I have several older men I call when I’m maxed out with stress. There is a benefit in surrounding yourself with people smarter than you about a matter. This is the time for the believer to rely more than ever on his or her faith; trusting that the God who called them to the task will be faithful to complete it (1 Thess 5:24).

Learn—Leaders should always be teachable. Again, assuming or pretending to have all the answers only slows or curtails projects and is quickly discovered by others. Stretch yourself and learn something new. Read. Definitely be reading. Attend a conference. Listen to some TED talks or sermons from pastors you admire. Feed your mind. It needs some new energies.

Improve—Make better checklists each day. Spend more time planning. Learn to better delegate. I always say, you have to get better before you can get bigger. As you learn improvements needed, be willing to change. The tighter you hold onto methods that aren’t working, the longer you’ll delay moving forward. Push through the overwhelming period and become a stronger, more capable and better leader. You can do it!

Do you need help? Are you overwhelmed? Start the process toward getting better.

I’m pulling for you—and I’ll trade you a prayer!  

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Ron Edmondson is a pastor and church leader passionate about planting churches, helping established churches thrive, and assisting pastors and those in ministry think through leadership, strategy and life. Ron has over 20 years business experience, mostly as a self-employed business owner, and he's been helping churches grow vocationally for over 10 years.