The Point: As a leader, you’ve experienced burnout. I’m not talking about physical burnout where you can’t take another step from exhaustion. What I’m referring to is the emotional exhaustion that results in depersonalization and decreased personal accomplishment at work. Perhaps it’s the latest project approaching completion, or maybe the promotion that passed you by… We started thinking here at the Javelin Institute and Tip of the Spear Ventures what exactly is behind leadership burnout and what (if anything) can be done to successfully turn a leader from burnout to a blaze again. So, in this post we’ll explore the leadership challenge of burnout… Enjoy!
Burnout: The Good, The Bad and Mostly Ugly!
Leadership burnout is best characterized by emotional exhaustion that results in both depersonalization and decreased accomplishment/results in the workplace. The emotionally exhausted leader is overwhelmed by leading to the point of feeling fatigued, unable to face the demands of leadership, and unable to engage their stakeholders. The burned-out leader often develops a sense of cynicism, detaching themselves from work and viewing stakeholders – especially subordinates – as objects along the way.
Fatigue, exhaustion, and detachment culminate in the leader experiencing burnout to the point where they no longer feel effective because they have lost their sense to contribute meaningfully. The growing trend of leadership burnout should be identified as a threat to strategic plan adoption for most organizations.
Burnout and Safety
Unless you’re in a clinical setting as a leader, your performance is rarely one where decisions made (or a lack thereof) are life or death for individuals or organization… Or is it? Characteristics of the new economy’s leadership environment, including time pressure, lack of control over work processes, role conflict, and poor relationships between groups combined with personal predisposing factors (i.e., bias) and the emotional intensity of work put leaders at high risk. From my executive coaching conversations, I estimate the prevalence of leadership burnout range from 10%–70% among leaders (SVPs, VPs, Directors, Team Leaders, etc.) and 30%–50% among senior leadership (CEOs and CXOs – COO, CFO, CHRO, CRO, CMO, etc.) If you/your organization are not looking at the signs of leadership burnout (Further broken down in the next section), an intervention should be staged to address the topic. Afterall, my experience shares that most leaders view their burnout as a threat to stakeholder safety because depersonalization is presumed to result in poorer interactions with them (Often causing lower communication effectiveness and poorer initiative results). However, typically the signs of leadership burnout go undetected or unaddressed.
At one of the organizations I work with, 40% of the leaders surveys reported at least one symptom of leadership burnout. Burnout rates (unsurprisingly) were higher for those who rated their leaders unfavorably. My survey also found that even with exceptionally high customer experience (CX), customer satisfaction, and net promoter scores, leadership quality accounted for roughly half the variable in such scores. So, what exactly are the signs of leadership burnout? The following list of burnout signs is from Psychology Today, broken down into (1) Physical and Emotional Exhaustion, (2) Cynicism and Detachment, and (3) Ineffectiveness and Lack of Accomplishment:
Physical and Emotional Exhaustion
- Chronic fatigue
- Forgetfulness/Impaired Concentration and Attention
- Physical Symptoms
- Increased Illness
- Loss of Appetite
Cynicism and Detachment
- Loss of Enjoyment
Ineffectiveness and Lack of Accomplishment
- Feeling of Apathy and Hopelessness
- Increased Irritability
- Lack of Productivity and Poor Performance
In this post we’ve explored the leadership challenge of burnout. Best characterized by emotional exhaustion that results in both depersonalization and decreased accomplishment/results in the workplace, burnout poses a risk to be managed in the workplace. By knowing and recognizing the signs of burnout, leaders can address or seek assistance so as to maintain organizational and career course/trajectory.
PS – 2020 will be here before we know it, and I see some disturbing Leadership-trends taking place. If you’d like to receive a white paper I wrote on “5 Ways Your Leadership Will Succeed in 2020” CLICK HERE.
PPSS – As we crossed-over the halfway point of 2019, I’ve launched my most aggressive initiative to date. It’s a 501(c)(3) structured nonprofit that provides Executive Education to allow you to become the BEST leader possible (NOT Good, NOT Better… BEST!). If you’d like more information, please watch the following 2-minute overview by CLICKING HERE or plug this URL into your browser: https://javelininstitute.org/welcome-to-the-javelin-institute/