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  • Writer's pictureLeeanne Carson-Hughes

The Savvy Leader #2 We need sustainable leadership

Updated: Oct 16, 2023

Dear leaders

We have a problem!

This insane pace needs to slow down. We need Sustainable Leadership!

The pace and intensity many are working at is not sustainable and senior leaders are the only people that can change this.

We all know the current state - not enough people, not enough hours in the day, the projects and the “incoming wounded” (everyone else’s priorities) are flowing in daily. Customers and stakeholders are demanding more, change is constant, supply chain is difficult etc.

On a good day many are energised by the cool projects, all the activity, the stimulation and the opportunities to make a difference but I bet some of your people (or you) are not coping that well or enjoying it.

And the reality is that if you are the senior leader, much of this is YOUR FAULT or at least under your control.

Stretch is good, challenge is good. Overwhelm is not, especially overwhelm that is caused by our ambition as leaders to succeed or our inability to learn techniques to better control the situation.

Harsh I know but I need to get your attention…this is important.

The pace and intensity we are setting in many organisations is not sustainable and as savvy leaders, we need to reset to a more sustainable pace. Leaders set the pace. Yes I know customers and stakeholders are demanding…but seriously we need to find a better way to lead.


If you agree, here are 3 techniques you might find helpful to become a savvy and sustainable leader.

1. Race, Pace and Grace

I first heard about this while I was coaching at the Institute for Strategic Leadership and have adopted it as part of my leadership style.


What is the race you are in. Is it life threatening or a marathon of many changes? Don’t treat everything the same, you can run different races for different pieces of work but don't run too many races at the same time.


What is the pace YOU are setting as a leader and if you are a member of the Executive team, what is the pace are you setting for the organisation. If your race is a marathon don’t set the 100m sprint pace.

Some things are urgent and some are priorities but if everything is a priority then nothing is a priority.


Think about your people when setting the race and pace. Are you being true to the values of the organisation? Are your people engaged and growing?

2. Gallop Research on how leaders impact burnout

We often think that burnout is an individual problem, solvable with a wellness programme and yoga at lunchtime (and they do help but often don’t solve some of the underlying issues).

The main causes for workplace burnout don’t have much to do with the individual, and a lot to do with how they are managed and led.

A 2018 Gallop survey found the top five reasons for burnout are:

· Unfair treatment at work,

· Unmanageable workloads

· Lack of role clarity

· Lack of communications and support from the manager

· Unreasonable time pressure

Many of these things we control as a senior leader. It is your responsibility to ensure you provide the above to your people.


1. Read the Gallop article here and then make sure you have the basic hygiene factors sorted for the people you lead.

2. Assess your own style, how much of the pressure is coming from you and your drive to succeed and how much from above. Do something to ensure both are reasonable as they flow down stream.

3. The Power of 3


Some things just have to wait. If you think your team is fully committed and yet another priority comes in, work out what you will defer or how will you fund additional resources. At some point in time you cannot deliver any more.

Deferring is a legitimate way to deliver but at a slower pace.


As it says – decide what really matters and then defer or say no to anything else. If everything is urgent and a priority then nothing is a priority.


At times you simply have to say no. This may be because it is not aligned to the strategic priorities, not do-able with your current resources, or just not that impactful.

There will always be an enormous list of things to do, fabulous ideas or “cool projects”. But not everything is equal. It is important to learn to respectfully and courageously explain why you are saying NO.

It is time we added the word NO to our vocabulary as a senior leaders.


Don’t be that leader – the one who overwhelms your people and yourself. Learn some basic techniques to control the pace. Learn to say no, learn to prioritise and make a decision on what matters most.

Yes customers are super important, yes safety is super important, yes revenue is super important…it is your job to find ways to ensure these needs are met. Pace the rest of it. The amount of work will continue to come in but we need to set a sustainable pace.

Be a great leader – not that leader.

Be a savvy and sustainable leader!

and whenever you are ready these are the ways I can help you:

  • Organisational level consulting and advisory work

  • 1: 1 Leadership Coaching or High Impact Team Coaching

  • Subscribe to The Savvy Leader newsletter and get actionable leadership tips

  • Follow me on linkedIn for more savvy leadership tips

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