Sometimes Leaders Lose Their Mojo Too

Leaders. We're counted on to have vision and to oversee the plan. We're depended upon to have answers and to know and do what's right. We're expected to be the life force of a business and the person driving everyone else's motivation. We're assumed to get out of bed each morning and have the fortitude to do it all over again and again.

But you know what? Sometimes we lose our mojo, too. We have our doubts or don't know the answers. We cannot conjure a clear or new vision, which means we don't know what should be in the plan. Our lack of clarity certainly doesn't help to drive motivation, and finding our own daily motivation to get out of bed can even be a chore.

When things get really bad, a leader can find herself descending into depression. She wouldn't be the first. According to the World Health Organization, one in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives. Furthermore, Nassir Ghaemi, a professor of psychiatry at Tufts University School of Medicine and director of the Mood Disorders Program at Tufts Medical Center School of Medicine at Tufts University, has showcased how some of the world's greatest leaders suffered from depression, knew it, and, Ghaemi asserts, benefited from it.

Ghaemi writes, "When the past no longer guides the future, they invent a new future. When old questions are unanswerable and new questions unrecognized, they create new solutions. They are realistic enough to see painful truths, and when calamity occurs, they can lift up the rest of us. Their weakness is the secret of their strength."

Since Ghaemi has already written at length on the subject of leaders and depression, I won't spend any more time on the extreme of depression. Its kissing cousin, however, the "loss of mojo" as I'm calling it, can be nearly as debilitating for leaders because the expectations placed on us are so high.

When a leader suffers from a perceived loss of mojo, nearly nothing feels like it's going right. It feels like invisible barriers are placed in all directions, like all apparently great ideas go to pot, like seemingly closed deals fall through, like any momentum achieved not only can't be sustained but also backslides. Losing your mojo feels like having a perpetual black cloud over your head, and it's one of the worst feelings short of depression. I should know the distinction: I've experienced both.

Finding Mojo

When I quoted Ghaemi a moment ago, I started with "...they invent a new future. " What struck me about this phrase is that Ghaemi is referring to reinvention. Since I specialize in reinvention, I know that the tactics to succeed in the reinvention process actually also work to help regain mojo. Here are five important ones:

  • Do something not work related that you're consistently great at and which makes you happy. The kind of happy in which you can't help but smile when you're doing it. Do it often. Let it remind you how it feels when you're in the zone.
  • Push yourself to discomfort. We're not talking about the physical pain kind of discomfort, but the place where you're challenging your ordinary sensibilities. This could be attending an event you would never otherwise attend or calling up someone you think would never return your call or doing an activity you've been avoiding. Inevitably, overcoming discomfort (or fear) leads to a feeling of euphoria, which even if fleeting, is the opposite of lost mojo.
  • Stimulate your imagination and indulge your curiosity. When I interviewed PR practitioner-turned-hospital chaplain Nettie Reynolds, I loved that she had a plan to get in touch with her "child-like self." Curiosity and imagination tap into your creative side, and it's your ability to creatively problem solve that can help you break out of the lost mojo blues.
  • Step away and re-group. Some leaders go on retreats; others go on vacation (or sabbaticals); still others take up meditation. Whatever practice appeals to you and also allows you to take stock of your circumstance without the daily management of "the machine" getting the way is likely to lead to breakout thinking, and that alone can be mojo-fueling.
  • Share your energy. By nature, I'm a positive person, and I think many other leaders are, too. Positivity draws people to leaders in the first place. Typically, however, when you've lost your mojo, your energy meter runs low, and as a consequence you don't draw people in as much. It's that "law of attraction" that's been talked about before. On the other hand, when you share your wins with other people – however small the win and however few the people – if it's something that matters to both you and those you're sharing it with, the sharing will energize both parties.

Leaders have to self-regulate their emotional issues, and yet when leaders lose their mojo, it can impact the entire organization, with no one knowing something's wrong before it's too late. It helps leaders to realize that, as with most everything else, even at the top we're not alone. Most leaders made it to the top for a reason. Remember that even when very little is going your way, you have the courage and resilience you need to succeed. Use the above tips to help you.

This too shall pass.