Be it politics, in business corporations or any other field, we expect a person in a leadership position to be infallible – a guiding light to the people they are working with. But what happens when a leader feels uninspired to pursue the job they once loved?

Executive coach and speaker Ritu G Mehrish’s book Leader’s Block acquaints the reader to the human side to leadership by revealing ‘how great leaders recover after they stumble’.

In over 20 years of corporate experience, Mehrish has worked with brilliant leaders across many geographies and industries. As she listened and worked with them on their challenges, it dawned on her that, “There are thousands of books, articles and motivational talks that tell leaders how to get better, how to be more effective, how to be more productive, how to be more profitable and how to be more successful. But, very few delve into the challenges, fears and dilemmas that leaders experience.” That’s why she decided to address this part of their journey that makes them “human”.

For the purpose of writing the book she has interviewed more than 200 leaders over the world, and almost all of them have experienced leader’s block at some point in their career. So, she would say it’s as common as flu.

An organisation needs to acknowledge that their leaders are not super heroes and therefore they will have these temporary blips. It can do so by creating a culture where leaders don’t have to hide their mistakes, by facilitating and urging open conversations.

Mehrish feels that the first thing that an organisation can do to empower someone having ‘leader’s block’ is to remove the taboo or stigma attached to showing vulnerabilities in this phase.

“An organisation needs to acknowledge that their leaders are not super heroes and therefore they will have these temporary blips. It can do so by creating a culture where leaders don’t have to hide their mistakes, by facilitating and urging open conversations.

On a more tangible level, an organisation needs to provide continuous opportunities for their leaders to grow. An organisation sometimes hires the crème de la crème and then doesn’t know what to do with them. But it needs to provide more external and internal support by having mentors and coaches for leaders, specially at senior levels,” she adds.

People in places of considerable seniority often feel that they are not in a position to ask for help, but when they realise that everyone goes through it, leaders feel a sense of relief. Mehrish informs, “When I run workshops and seminars, leaders share their stories with one another it creates that sense of “not being” alone in this. Asking for help only makes them human.”

When I run workshops and seminars, leaders share their stories with one another it creates that sense of “not being” alone in this. Asking for help only makes them human.”

There are enough early warning signs that can pre-empt a ‘leader’s block, the prominent ones being one feeling “bored and disengaged, becoming cynical and skeptical, feeling lost and directionless, and becoming irritable and short tempered.”

The author says that the key step to overcoming this phase is to step back and look at the big picture, take feedback and opinions of people that matter and sometimes let things pass and allowing them to their own turn.

If a leader’s block goes unchecked, the ramifications could be huge on the leader and organisation. As Mehrish elaborates, “During this phase they start to experience lower confidence and self-doubt and it makes them irritable, short tempered, moody and volatile. It affects their performance, they are prone to making hasty choices and impulsive decisions. This phase if not managed well can lead to high stress levels, burnouts and even depression.

I found that women leaders ask for help and show vulnerability more than their male counterparts.

There are huge tangible and intangible impacts for the company. Tangible impacts are the cost of unproductivity due to the disengagement of these leaders and which costs companies millions of dollars! However, the intangible impact cannot be ignored too, price of alienated teams, bad business decisions, erosion of corporate values are some examples. And based on my interviews, I found that women leaders ask for help and show vulnerability more than their male counterparts.”

While writing this book, the author also consciously reached out to people outside her direct network and that helped leaders open up as they didn’t know her and felt free enough to share their stories. The inspiration behind the book is her own leadership journey of 20 years across the globe and the journey of the leaders that she coaches.

Mehrish wants readers to realise through the book that leaders are not super heroes and therefore it’s okay to fail, falter and stumble as long as they can recognize their shortcomings and come back on track.

“Remember, you are not alone!” she adds.

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