How to Avoid Burnout in Leadership

How to Avoid Burnout in Leadership Devo Image

“Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him. Teach them his decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave. But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.”—Exodus‬ 18:19–23‬ (NIV)‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Burnout is real. I can’t tell you how many articles I’ve received in my inbox recently from different publishers warning employers and managers about the danger of burnout. Leadership is hard, especially with unhealthy boundaries, a lack of wise counsel, or underdeveloped team members. In today’s section of Scripture, Moses’ father-in-law Jethro gives him great advice on how to avoid burnout in leadership.

Just before these verses, Jethro and his family had come to visit Moses. He observed Moses’ rhythms and schedule. All of the Israelites—anywhere from 600,000 to 2,000,000 people (Exodus 12:37–38)—would come to Moses with their issues, asking for him to bring resolution. As you can imagine, this would occupy all of his time from morning to evening!

Jethro had a special relationship with Moses, and he was able to provide direct and practical advice to help Moses and his leadership style. He said, “What you are doing is not good” (Exodus 18:17 NIV)! While it’s important that Moses taught the people God’s Word and how to live and respond in light of God’s ways, Moses took on too much by arbitrating every dispute on his own. So, Jethro instructed Moses to delegate some of the responsibilities to capable leaders under him. In essence, this is like an organizational chart in a large corporation which includes vice presidents, department heads, and managers placed in leadership over groups of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens of people. It created order and function from a chaotic and dysfunctional judicial system, and freed up Moses’ capacity. This system would ensure that Moses would be able to withstand the burden of leadership for years to come. It also created more satisfaction and peace among the Israelites.

If we look at Jesus’ style of leadership in the New Testament, we see a similar model. He taught crowds of thousands of people God’s ways and instructed them on how to live as His followers. Then He had a smaller group of 12 disciples He empowered as leaders. Those followers were the leaders of the early church. Finally, He had a core group of three that He invested in more heavily. With each group of people, Jesus set the example of servant leadership. 

This is the character and nature of God—He creates order, He serves, He cares for everyone, and His ways bring peace. He’s the ultimate delegator. You see, God is all-powerful and all-knowing. He could bring resolution to everyone’s problems instantaneously. And yet, He uses people like you and me to fulfill His plans and purposes. What an honor!

Pause: How are you at delegating responsibilities? Do you hoard every opportunity that comes your way? Do you give away too much? How are you developing the people around you? Do you have someone in your life like a “Jethro” who can share wisdom and advice with you?

Practice: Make a list containing three columns. In the first column, write down things that only you can do. In the second column, write down things you can delegate. In the third column, write down things you must delegate. 

Pray: God, I thank You for Your Word, which teaches me about You. You are a God of order, and Your ways are full of wisdom. Help me to live and lead differently in light of who You are and the example You set for us in the Bible. Show me areas where what I’m doing isn’t right. Allow me to listen to advice from people around me. I choose to submit to Your leadership and ultimately want to live like You, Jesus, the perfect example of servant leadership. Amen.

About the Author

Denise Trio

Denise Trio has been on staff with Calvary for almost two years, serving as the Director of Strategic Development. She has 10 years of project management experience, with a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture and Engingeering from Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA and a Master’s degree in Pastoral Counseling from Liberty University, Lynchburg, VA. When not on campus, Denise is either making her way through her book list at the beach, ordering tacos on any menu that serves them, or running her side business, The Rose Creative, which specializes in creating beautiful and meaningful products for her clients.