Leadership is often associated with power, responsibility, and authority. As a leader, you are expected to be able to handle anything that comes your way and keep your team positive, even in times of uncertainty. However, the pressure, isolation, and weight that come with being at the top can be overwhelming, making things seem hopeless and difficult to manage. This is known as leadership burnout. It is a growing problem in many workplaces and can harm individuals, teams, and organizations.
The good news is that there are strategies you can use to prevent burnout and promote a healthy and productive workplace culture. In this blog post, we will explore the link between leadership and burnout, the causes of burnout, and tips for avoiding burnout as a leader.
Defining leadership burnout
Leadership burnout can be characterized as the feeling of physical and emotional exhaustion experienced by senior executives and high-performing managers when they are overworked or neglect their wellbeing. It is a psychological condition caused by chronic stress, often due to long-term work-related stressors.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), burnout is characterized by three dimensions: low energy, exhaustion, increasingly negative feelings about work, and reduced professional effectiveness. In general, burnout can be associated with physical, emotional and/or mental exhaustion. Interestingly, the phenomenon is particularly prevalent among female managers: a McKinsey study shows, that more than half of women in management positions consistently feel burned out, and women are more likely to suffer from burnout than men at a rate of 32% to 28%.
However, the symptoms of burnout can vary from person to person. Typical signs are:
- Insomnia (Sleeplessness)
- Feeling emotionally exhausted or drained
- Physical symptoms, such as headaches or stomach ache
- Low energy levels
- Increased negativity or irritability towards colleagues and clients, inability to control one’s moods
- Low levels of enthusiasm and motivation, reduced efficiency
- Loss of perspective and brain fog
- Feelings of hopelessness or cynicism about work
It is important to understand that burnout is not a personal weakness or lack of resilience, but rather the result of chronic stress in the workplace. Managers must acknowledge its existence and take steps to address it.
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