When leaders sacrifice themselves continuously to their jobs they can become trapped in what is known as the Sacrifice Syndrome.  The Sacrifice Syndrome is the result of heavy responsibilities, the perpetual need to influence, and the pressure to get results.  Sacrifice leads to Power Stress, a unique blend of stress that results from constant involvement in complex choices, communication, and decision-making.  We all know that stress has always been part of the leader’s reality and always will be.  The real problem is too little recovery time.  Many leaders fail to manage the cycle of sacrifice and renewal, which is required to maintain leadership effectiveness.

Signs that you might be in or moving toward the Sacrifice Syndrome include:

  • Working harder with less results
  • Feeling tired, even after getting enough sleep
  • Drinking more coffee than usual
  • Unable to take vacation days
  • Finding less time (or no time at all) for the things you used to enjoy
  • Unable to talk about your problems with your spouse or significant other
  • Rarely able to attend your place of worship or find time for quiet contemplation
  • Less exercise or activity than you are used to
  • Feeling no one can understand what you need to do or how much you have to work
  • Feeling too over whelmed to seek new experiences, ideas, or ways of doing things 

Long before we figure it out cognitively, there are clues that suggest we have lost ourselves and need to engage in renewal. Most of the time the cues are vague or easy to miss because they can be attributed to living a busy, stressful life (headaches, weight gain, irritability, disconnects at home, chronic illnesses).  How we deal with these cues depends in large part on how carefully we are attending to ourselves.

Pay attention to your cues, listen to the signals your body is sending you, and take action. Plan, create, and take advantage of opportunities to renew.  The work isn’t going anywhere.  Take care of yourself so that you can deliver your best work, and engage others in the most effective, motivating, and inspiring way.