How to Overcome Leadership Burnout in 2021

How to Overcome Leadership Burnout in 2021

We live in an extremely fast-paced world that rewards achievement. As a result, we have set incredibly high personal and professional goals for ourselves – we want them all, and we want them now! However, the pursuit of acquiring everything comes with a high cost to our well-being and with high burnout rates.

Burnout is said to be a state of physical and emotional fatigue from long-term job stress or investing a lot of effort into a job that has failed to produce the desired results.

In fact, it has become so common that the WHO has included burnout in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), as an occupational phenomenon.

Burnout is said to be a state of physical and emotional fatigue from long-term job stress or investing a lot of effort into a job that has failed to produce the desired results.

Leaders of organisations are especially vulnerable to burnout, and many will have gone through it at some point in their careers. Years of responsibility, stress, and unreasonable expectations can take a heavy toll on their emotional and physical well-being.

So, how exactly does burnout affect Leaders?

Leaders are representatives of the organisation and are under relentless pressure to perform day in, day out. They are always expected to be passionate, pioneering, and help take their organisations to new heights.

A 24/7 work timetable, large‐scale initiatives, and low resources can lead to increased stress and fatigue. Burnout can leave leaders feeling hopeless, cynical, resentful, and low on energy and productivity. Eventually, they may not feel like working at all because they have nothing more to contribute.

This is bad for both the leader and the organisation. Burnout can cost businesses billions annually in lost productivity, stress leave, low morale, poor decision-making, and substandard management practices.

Despite all of the warning signs, most leaders choose to ignore the adverse effects and continue at the destructive pace that ultimately affects their work and personal lives.

But avoiding burnout does not mean giving up a coveted job and staying home.

How Effective Leaders Avoid or Deal with Burnout

How to Overcome Leadership Burnout in 2021-2

1. They leave it behind at the office 

Effective leaders recognise that taking time off is as important as working. It refreshes the mind and allows them to come back to their tasks with renewed enthusiasm.

They know that being available 24/7 is never a good idea and can cause enormous stress, strain and pressure. It leaves no time to recharge, reset and refocus, and it is a sure path to destruction.

Many designate fixed hours for working and disconnecting. For example, taking the weekend off and not dealing with work-related issues (unless indispensable). Disconnecting is an effective way to de-stress and avoid burnout.

2. They have a hobby

Most of the most successful leaders agree that there is more to life than just working— you should enjoy, too.

Research shows that spending time on a hobby can improve mental and physical well-being. Enjoyable activities can increase happiness, relaxation, replenish energy, and heal. If a long vacation is impossible, there are much simpler ways to prevent burn out.

And this is why many leaders put aside time for a hobby because it is a great way to unwind and de-stress and hone other skills. Whether it is playing an instrument, taking up outdoor activities, reading, or cooking – focusing on something else for a change can be an effective way to counter burnout.

Many leaders put aside time for a hobby because it is a great way to unwind and de-stress and hone other skills. Click To Tweet

3. They know where to draw the line

Commitment is part of life. But there is a difference between commitment and overcommitment.

Sometimes the desire to live up to other people’s expectations or keep up a super-human reputation can have serious negative consequences. Overcommitting and being stretched too thin can intensify the feelings of exhaustion and burnout.

The bottom line is that human beings have limits, and managing those limits is exceptionally crucial.

Effective leaders know how to say “no” and set boundaries that help in preventing burnout. They carefully select their activities and opportunities and decline the rest, instead of taking too much on and quitting mid-way.

4. They acknowledge it is “Ok” not to be perfect

Perfectionists are highly driven and gifted individuals. However, getting the job done each time perfectly is not everything. Studies show a direct correlation between perfectionism and high rates of burnout caused by high levels of stress.

Effective leaders know that subjecting themselves to intense self-criticism and compulsive behaviour has a dark side and can often lead to chronic stress, heart disease, depression, and anxiety.

They know the key is not in worrying about the small imperfections (because those will always be) but to do the job as best as they can and move on. This attitude actually allows for consistent improvement, job satisfaction and reduces the risk of burnout.

5. They delegate more

Some leaders are reluctant to delegate for various reasons. They may prefer to retain control of all tasks or think that doing specific tasks themselves is time-saving compared to explaining how to go about it to others. Some even feel that nobody else can do a job as well as they can or that delegating is a sign of laziness.

But effective leaders acknowledge they have a limited amount of time and energy, which means that they need to focus on doing things that only they can do and delegate the other jobs to everyone else.

By delegating work effectively, they prevent stress and burnout and enhance their teams’ capabilities. When leaders delegate work thoughtfully, they empower their team members to take on new responsibilities and expand their skill sets. It is a win-win situation for everyone.


Leaders need to use their management skills to define their goals and strategies and recognise the right time to take a step back and work on improving their environment. It becomes easier for them to harness their strengths because they are skilled in strategic thinking and can create a healthier and more successful balance in their lives.

Some leaders do not want to pause their fast‐paced lives, even when they are approaching burnout and continue on the path of destruction until it is too late. However, the most successful lot have avoided or overcome burnout by doing simple things.

Recognising the causes of burnout, unlearning bad habits and recommitting to a more balanced life may take a little effort, but it is well worth it in the long run.

And now, it’s your turn! If you have ever been through burnout and have any interesting thoughts on how leaders can avoid or deal with it, leave us a comment or get in touch with us and we would love to hear from you!


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