3 Ways to Manage the Mental Load of Leadership
Leadership comes with many responsibilities, and a huge mental load that I don’t think is talked about enough. It’s an underappreciated aspect of leadership; an unseen burden that leaders carry with them at work, home, and everywhere in between, and if it isn’t managed well can have a great impact on people professionally and personally. It can lead to lack of motivation, difficulty sleeping, feeling anxious, physical exhaustion, and burnout.
What contributes to the mental load of a veterinary leader?
- Job demands: Long working hours, deadlines, and decisions.
- Challenging situations: Difficult cases, client complaints.
- Work and home tension: There can be blurred boundaries between work and personal life.
- Pressure from above: Managing financial aspects of veterinary practice such as budgeting, revenue generation, cost control. Ensuring the financial viability of a practice.
- Keeping up with the constantly evolving world of regulatory compliance.
- Strong work ethic: You don’t step into a leadership role without a high work ethic and drive, but there can be a tendency to overwork, and take on too much.
- Role conflict: Veterinary leaders may experience internal conflict as they try to balance their role as a person who delivers veterinary medicine, with the needs of the business.
- Perfectionism: Veterinary professionals have high standards for themselves, and there can be self-imposed expectations as they seek to meet or exceed their own high standards.
- Self-Doubt: Imposter phenomenon is common in the veterinary world, and heightened as a leader, because you’re under the magnifying glass.
Here are 3 ways to manage your mental load:
- Increase Your Self-Awareness
Knowing how you work and how you operate from your model of the world is vital. Expanding your self-awareness means you will become more in tune with your patterns and limits - patterns in your thought processes and behaviours, and limits in terms of your what you can demand from yourself.
Suggestions for expanding your self-awareness:
- Energy Management
I learned of a great tool to use that I recommend leaders complete once a month. It’s called an Energy Audit.
Time is a finite resource, whereas energy can be expanded and renewed. This tool looks at the people, places, things, habits, behaviours, and rituals in your life that fill and drain you of energy. Once you can be truthful with yourself about the things, people, habits, and behaviours in your life that don’t really serve you, you can do more of what you know fills you. You can look at the things that are significant contributors to your mental load, and find ways to delegate them, eliminate them completely, or reframe them in order to feel better about them.
You may also be interested in: You Don’t Need to Manage Your Time, You Need to Manage Your Energy (simplyveterinarycoaching.com)
- Enhance Your Sense of Community
Leadership is lonely but having a community of leaders or simply being in touch with people who ‘get it’, can feel very validating and reassuring. Consider group leadership coaching, or leadership development programmes, or attending networking events or social gatherings specifically for veterinary leaders. Not only will this reduce loneliness, but it can also be very motivating and energising to speak to and problem solve with other leaders, who can provide new and interesting insights into the challenges you’re facing within your practice and point you in the direction of resources and people who have helped them with similar challenges in the past.
You may also be interested in: 4 Signs of Loneliness in Leaders (simplyveterinarycoaching.com)
My suggestions are not one-time solutions; managing the mental load of being a veterinary leader is an ongoing process. The veterinary profession is constantly evolving, with medical advancements, client expectations, industry trends, changing regulations, and economic conditions, and therefore your workload and what the role demands of you is constantly evolving too. Being mindful of your mental load and managing it proactively will ensure you continue to serve your team and your clients powerfully.