Leadership Burnout: What You Can Do To Beat It

by | 8 Sep 2022

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Hey leaders, how are you feeling these days?

There is no denying that the past two years have been a time of extraordinary challenges for businesses, big and small. Leaders and managers have been running on adrenaline, reacting to the crisis of COVID-19 with a phenomenal output of energy, so it’s no wonder 66% of leaders reported feeling burnt-out, and 76% said they were overwhelmed with managing and being responsible for their teams.

Burnout was an issue for leaders before the pandemic, yet now we are seeing the toll of many other factors exacerbate the problem.  Domestic issues such as unprecedented skills shortages, illness and extreme weather have created disasters for some and compounded anxiety for many. Globally, major conflicts, rapid inflation and the spectre of a possible recession are also ratcheting up the strain for leaders as they strategise how to pivot—yet again.

Added to these relentless challenges and tension is that one of the best methods to reset fully hasn’t been possible for quite some time: holidays. Heading interstate or overseas, or in fact just getting days off, has been few and far between, therefore limiting opportunities for leaders to rest and recuperate. In fact, in a recent study of 1,200 participants by LifeWorks and Deloitte, 82% of senior leaders reported feeling exhausted when they finish their work day. The survey also showed that 59% could not relax or take a break, and 49% were having problems sleeping.

As a leader, there is often an expectation always to have answers to all uncertainties and be a positive figure in the business. However, the reality is that our leaders are humans too. The isolation and pressure that come with being at the top can be overwhelming, and this creates a ripple effect throughout many workplaces, breeding indecisiveness, loss of motivation, poor outcomes and reduced engagement. Based on surveys done by a Gallup poll between 2020 and 2021, the number of managers who stated they were burnt out “always” or “very often” increased by 7%.

These physical and emotional effects are immense; burnout depletes energy, generates negative associations with work, lowers morale and reduces professional efficacy and efficiency. The leadership burnout might almost be considered a pandemic itself, wreaking havoc on managers, directors and executives, and consequently, their families, goals, health and workplaces are suffering.

In today’s fast-paced working culture, companies are under-resourced while expected to operate at full capacity, and that responsibility falls to the leaders. So what can be done to help prevent leadership burnout?

Take care of your mental health

Leaders and managers are especially prone to burnout denial because they feel everyone is counting on them. They are the ones who must always be positive, championing the vision of the company and showing strength. But to be a strong leader, mental wellness is essential. A mental health professional can offer ways to handle stressors and suggest other treatment options. Think of asking for help simply as a tune-up for your mental well-being.

Improve your physical health

Being an executive or leader of an organisation is exceedingly demanding. And, for leaders to perform their best, they need to be in top physical shape too. This means making exercise, a healthy diet, regular sunshine and adequate time for sleep a priority. Sleep deficits have significant negative impacts on brain function and mood.

Reduce your workload

A CEO should only do the work that no one else can do. All tasks that can be delegated to another worker should be. Focus on creating a culture that is not based on a foundation of micromanaging. Hire the right people, train them well, and trust them to do the job.

Protect your time

Work-life balance is critical, so weekends and days off should be free of work. They are a way to refresh weekly and help alleviate the chronic stress of never taking a break. Set boundaries and be careful not to overcommit on the time you offer to others. Take a holiday and completely disengage from work unless there is a crisis. The bonus is that staff will learn to take the initiative and feel more pride in ownership of their work while you are away.

Leadership can sometimes be isolating, but that doesn’t mean you must suffer in silence. As we move into the post-pandemic phase, this is the time for all leaders to do an honest self-appraisal for workplace burnout. Are some or all of the burnout symptoms present? Then it’s important to take the time to make a plan to recalibrate. Reduce or eliminate some of the bad habits brought on by two long years of survival mode. Ensure wellness is embedded in your life. By taking these steps, it is possible to avoid or recover from the debilitating problem of workplace burnout.

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