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  • Writer's pictureDr. Cristina DiPietropolo

How to Lead When You're COVID-19 Fatigued: Part 1

Since the day COVID-19 sent the world into lockdown, everything has become complicated. Around the globe, everyone is struggling to adapt to the new normal—but it doesn't feel particularly normal. If anything, basic daily tasks have become harder than ever. Leaders, in particular, are being weighed down by the fatigue brought on by COVID-19. Layoffs, furloughs, cost-cutting, driving productivity, and closures resulting from disruptions brought on by the pandemic are weighing heavy on leaders.

Leadership exhaustion is fatigue that is brought on by the unique challenges set in place by COVID-19 at the moment. While you might be fatigued in general due to COVID-19, the reality is that leadership is adding to the burden in a lot of different ways. In the last year, leaders have been tasked with solving a wide range of problems that did not exist prior to the pandemic. Leading when you are exhausted isn't easy, but it is an important part of leadership. Whether you are leading when you are exhausted from your own life's stresses or trying to rebuild your business during a pandemic, it can make it difficult to focus and bring tasks to completion. When faced with these difficulties, it is essential to focus on what really needs to be done.

Urgency vs. Importance

When it comes to leading during this pandemic, the dynamic has shifted. Suddenly leaders are being faced with challenges that simply were not present before. To survive in this environment, there is a need for leaders to have a shift in perspective. Some organizations actively avoid important decisions in hopes that the world will simply return to the way it was.[1] Unfortunately, this will leave them scrambling down the line, which could cause of ripple effect within the organization if things don't change. To be successful, leaders should focus on identifying what needs to be done sooner rather than later. While urgent matters should be handled immediately to maintain business continuity, it is also important not to be short-sighted and overlook important issues (i.e., innovation-related initiatives) that need to be addressed. Our tendency in crisis is to focus on the urgent and then rest and face another day. Leaders need to avoid this temptation and should consider developing a leadership strategy. For example, a CEO whose business has thrived during COVID-19 made the decision not to rest but instead created a task force of high-performing talent within the organization, asking them to consider how the organization could turn the short-term momentum into long-term advantages. She asked her team to identify steps they could take now that would ensure longer-term competitive advantages in the future.[1] But how do you develop these leadership traits and find the strength and energy to have this perspective?

Tips for Leading While Fatigued

Fatigued leaders are fighting a much harder battle than most. Fortunately, there are steps that you can take to lead effectively despite the circumstances.

  • Take Breaks—Burning out completely will not help you to reach your goals, so regularly take breaks and find ways to decompress. Consider blocking out time on your calendar to help you focus and reenergize.

  • Prioritize Your Tasks—Right now, there is a much bigger need for priorities in the workplace. Stop fighting what can't be fixed right now and look for opportunities to be productive every day. Develop the mindset of long-term perspective for your team and organization.

  • Find a hobby—It can't be all about work! Find something you enjoy doing (i.e., golf, dance, kite-boarding, etc.) and then make it a priority every week to do something for yourself that will help you disengage from all the responsibilities you have, both personally and professionally.


Leaders are no more immune from fatigue than anyone else, and the challenge is to sustain energy in themselves and their teams. If you have been suffering from fatigue in response to COVID-19, you're not alone. One of the qualities of a good leader is the ability to overcome obstacles, recover in the face of challenges, and reexamine your personal resilience. How strong are you under pressure? How long does it take for you to pivot and adapt to your changing environment? Keep pushing forward a step at a time every single day, and be kind to yourself in your leadership role. You may be exhausted, it may seem overwhelming, but you've got what it takes, and we can help you get to the finish line!

We hope you enjoyed this article. If you want to learn more, our Leadership training for practitioners contains all the materials you'll need to strengthen your leadership skills to help you cultivate connections with your employees or clients. Email us at for more information.

Dr. Cristina Rosario DiPietropolo is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer at Leader Essentials Group, with extensive experience across multiple industries and highly skilled in the areas of strategic planning, organizational behavior, human resource management, change management, and Leadership. Over ten years of teaching experience as a university professor of management, with a special focus on Leadership in entrepreneurship, organizational behavior, and international management.

_________________________________________________________________________ [1] Wedell-Wedellsborg, M. (2020). How to lead when your team is exhausted - and you are, too. Retrieved April 06, 2021, from

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