You don’t have to answer out loud, but you have to answer honestly: “Are you most comfortable when you’re feeling overwhelmed?”

If so, you may be what’s called, in the February 2014 issue of Inc. magazine, a Martyr-Leader.

Telltale signs of a Martyr-Leader

  1. You’re a bottleneck…and you secretly like it.
    Martyr-Leaders have un-fulfillable commitments, impossibly Herculean to-do lists, and triple-booked schedules – all for the purpose of generating the warm, comforting glow of indispensability.
  2. Your default mood is self-pity.
    Watch a martyr-leader as he goes about his daily business, and you will find two primary attitudes on display: poor me and head-shaking sigh.
  3. You exude learned helplessness.
    Martyr-Leaders live in a self-taught state of mind wherein nothing is ever truly fixable and everything is a mess – and expect the rest of us to feel the same.

And what if you are (or think you are) a Martyr-Leader?

If so, I recommend the following six steps:

  1. Pat yourself on the back.
    It’s not easy to face our shortcomings, but you just did.
  2. Don’t rush into action.
    As H. L. Mencken said, “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.” And since your likely reaction is to jump right into the “busyness,” of this problem, slow down, take a breath, and relax a bit with a cup of decaffeinated coffee.
  3. Triangulate.
    While sipping your java, name 2 or 3 leaders who are decidedly not Leader-Martyrs. Consider what they do that you don’t; what they don’t, that you do. Now name 2 or 3 more leaders who are even more Leader-Martyr-ish than you and consider what they they do that you don’t; what they don’t, that you do.

  4. Push Away.
    Next, list out 2 or 3 simple, doable, steps you can take (or not take) that would push you away from being even more leader-martyr-ish. Implement them as soon as you get back to the office.

  5. Pull Toward.

    List out 2 or 3 additional steps you can take (or not take) that would pull you toward less leader-martyr-ism. Implement them as soon as you get back to the office, as well.

  6. Pat yourself on the back, again, and get back to work.
    It’s not easy to actually address our shortcomings, but you now are. Congratulations.

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