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How HR can help burnt-out leaders become visionaries

"Through HR-facilitated training, leaders can hone communication skills," says Insights' head of culture

In Stress Awareness Month, here are two key concepts that can help HR teams support reactive, burnt-out leaders and move them towards visionary leadership.

At Insights, we're no strangers to the challenges facing leadership teams worldwide. Many of the leaders we collaborate with tell us they are in a cycle of reactivity, leading to burnout.

In today's whirlwind-paced work environment, it's all too easy for our leaders to get swept up in the frenzy. 

Despite these difficult conditions, leaders are still expected to steer their teams strategically. However, the pressure and pace of modern workplaces often widen the gap between the leader they aspire to be and the one they actually are. 

This Stress Awareness Month, here are two key concepts that can help HR teams support reactive, burnt-out leaders and move them towards visionary leadership: 

Self-awareness is key  

Psychologist Tasha Eurich highlights a significant gap: while 95% of people believe they possess self-awareness, only 10%-15% truly do. But why does self-awareness matter in the first place?

Read more: Toxic resilience and how to avoid it

Proactively developing self-awareness provides leaders with a significant edge, enabling them to transition from frantically reacting to crises to maintaining composed, visionary leadership on a daily basis.  

Balance is crucial. Leaders need to stay alert to the current situation while also scanning the horizon for needs, opportunities, and ways to address them. Focusing solely on the horizon neglects the present, risking crises for our endeavours. Conversely, being wholly absorbed in the task at hand can hinder growth and overlook opportunities for improvement. Finding this equilibrium prevents perpetual struggle and fosters progress. 

Self-aware leaders understand their preferred leadership style, strengths, weaknesses and how they respond to effective leadership. Because of this they can navigate the balance between nurturing relationships for collaboration, versus a strong task focus and ability to get the job done efficiently.  

This awareness guides teams purposefully, allowing proactive problem-solving rather than reactive stress management. 

Secondly, don’t just stop with yourself. Develop awareness of others 

Extending this awareness to others is important for visionary leadership, transcending self-awareness to empathetically grasp each team member's values, perspectives and needs.

Read more: Don’t let burnout become a business issue

Being aware of others means understanding your employees' individual styles and preferences, akin to understanding your own. It involves fostering an environment where diverse individuals thrive: those who drive focus, provide analytical clarity, promote agility and collaboration, or cultivate trust and cohesion. As a leader this entails recognising their unique attributes and how they contribute synergistically to the team's success. 

Visionary leaders skilfully harness this dynamic, knowing when to engage, adapt, or delegate. When unified by a shared goal, the team's collective strength amplifies, akin to threads woven into a resilient rope. As the Kenyan proverb goes: 'Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable.' 

This shift from reactive to visionary leadership rejuvenates leaders and teams, turning burnout into renewed energy.  

The role of HR teams 

HR teams play a pivotal role in providing continuous training to deepen leaders' understanding of themselves and others, fostering practical application on a daily basis, whether through external or internal training programmes. For example, we use Insights Discovery’s common language of colour to help make it easier and more memorable for people to understand themselves and others. This enables teams to talk about issues in a non-judgmental way, in a manner that is underpinned by mutual respect, building trust and cohesion. 

Read more: How HR can spot signs of burnout

By investing in programmes that enhance self-awareness and balance between relationships and results, HR teams aid burnt-out leaders in transitioning from reactive to visionary leadership. Through HR-facilitated training, leaders can hone communication skills, enabling effective articulation of their vision and fostering open dialogue within teams.  

Prioritising regular self-assessment and self-care for leaders is also critical, allocating dedicated time for reflection, skill improvement, and personal growth. This prioritisation underscores a commitment to nurturing impactful, visionary leaders.  

Such changes are vital for cultivating a sustainable and welcoming work environment where leaders and teams thrive personally and professionally, delivering their best performance. 

By Marcus Wylie, head of culture at Insights