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  • Writer's pictureDr. Cristina DiPietropolo

How to Lead When You're COVID-19 Fatigued: Part 2

With the current state of their world, everyone is facing a new set of challenges. We have survived the concerns about basic necessities, and now we are all working together to keep our industries afloat. These difficult times weigh on all of us—especially leaders who may be dealing with what we termed as COVID-19 fatigue in a previous post. Being a leader during a pandemic means you have to be versatile. Now, more than ever, leaders are faced with assuming the role of confidant. Your employees are dealing with many unique challenges and are likely to need a little extra support from you during this time. An article in Harvard Business Review indicates "working in isolation, health concerns, job insecurity, heavy workloads, and rapidly shifting priorities"[1] are a few of the concerns your employees are facing. But how can you be supportive in a leadership role, demonstrate empathy and compassion, and establish guard rails to keep you from becoming entrenched in your employees' issues? In this article, we will discuss how you can lead your team when they are suffering from burnout and exhaustion.

How to be compassionate and maintain a healthy distance

The most important part of being an effective leader during a pandemic is to balance compassion with containment.[1] Right now, leaders need to demonstrate a little extra compassion and empathy with their employees. While not every employee request can be granted, consider offering short-term solutions to support your team. What was deemed unacceptable yesterday (i.e., working from home, virtual developmental learning, etc.) is now an opportunity to view the phenomena from a different perspective. However, as a leader, you can demonstrate compassion and empathy to be supportive of your employees' struggles, but you cannot get caught up in them. You need to be able to support your team without being emotionally influenced by their personal struggles. Empathize with them, but don't bear the burden for them!

Bring the right energy

Bringing the right energy in these circumstances means being optimistic about the future. It's the ability to be stable and strong in the face of uncertainty. You are there to support your team, so make it a point to share success stories, even small ones, that can foster an environment of excitement. Remind your employees that you are a team and tell them, "we'll all get through this together." Everyone is in survival mode, and they need to know there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Consider shortening the endless virtual meetings and once in a while use ice breakers to start meetings on a high note. There are so many creative, fast and fun ice breakers online, and your team will be more energized if they've had a chance to laugh and have some fun before the meeting starts.

Tips for Leading a Fatigued Team

Leaders are dealing with more during these challenging times—and your teams need you now more than ever. The right approach can make all the difference.

  • Be Understanding—At this point, employees are dealing with personal struggles, health concerns, managing kids, and even the job loss of a family member may be affecting them. Try your best to be understanding during these times.

  • Remain Hopeful—Current times are uncertain, and people are nervous. Be the voice of positivity for them by always bringing a positive outlook.

  • Convey Resilience—Resilience is the "most fundamental quality for navigating chaos."[1] Your ability to persist in the face of difficulties will help your employees know they can overcome their challenges.


The world has changed, and no one is certain what will come next. As long as we focus on being supportive of ourselves and others, we will all come out of this feeling empowered. Your team consists of a group of individuals facing their private personal battles, and you are in your leadership role to support them. Consider taking the time to connect with employees and make sure that they know that you are there for them. Your energy can help to lift them up during these difficult times. Use your leadership power for good!

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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