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How to avoid leadership burnout amid talent shortages

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The Great Resignation has forced many managers to carry the load while struggling to bring in new talent. Leaders are people, not superhumans, and it's time for organisations to rethink how they support the wellbeing of managers and avoid burn out.

20th Apr 2022
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In 2021, massive waves of employees quit their jobs (40-50% according to Gallup statistics) in an unprecedented time of instability across the globe. Often referred to as the ‘Great Resignation’, data shows this trend won’t be slowing down anytime soon.

Employees are leaving for many reasons — because they are dissatisfied with working conditions, wages aren’t reflecting inflation rates, and there are limited opportunities for flexibility and growth within the company. A lot has been written about the impact this talent exodus is having on organisations, but how is it affecting the leaders left behind?

Usually, when significant shifts in the job market occur, they impact employees at lower levels, but this rise in dissatisfaction has also taken a considerable toll on leaders. Top performers have been resigning in droves, forcing many managers to do extra work while they struggle to find quality replacements that could ease their workload. 

The mental health impact that kind of strain has is undeniable, so it’s more essential than ever for organisations to help their leaders combat burnout. Let’s look at what companies and managers can do to reduce burnout and achieve overall company satisfaction. 

Burnout is at an all-time high among leaders, with more than six in ten managers experiencing burnout and a fifth considering quitting their jobs.

How to recognise burnout

The stigma surrounding burnout makes it increasingly difficult for leaders to come forward and admit they feel overwhelmed. Many workplaces glorify ‘hustle culture’ and don’t reward taking a break, so leaders feel slowing down will make them seem weak or that it will affect their performance. The momentum created by the team keeps everyone moving fast – and this isn’t sustainable in the long run. 

Recognising the symptoms of burnout early on is crucial in avoiding long-term effects trickling down to other employees. Managers can’t lead effectively and gain the trust of their employees if they are burnt out and struggling themselves. 

According to the World Health Organization, burnout is a state of physical and emotional exhaustion from long-term stress in a job that hasn’t been properly managed and can be recognised by three characteristics:

  • Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion

  • Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativity or cynicism related to one's job

  • Reduced professional efficacy

Everyone needs to be operating on a strong foundation of mutual trust and respect in the workplace. Without it, performance is likely to suffer and impact a much larger aspect of the business. Psychological safety is fundamental to a healthy workplace. Leaders need to feel like they can safely express concerns and take a break if they feel burnt out. 

Identifying the symptoms of burnout in your leaders and letting them know they are supported can impact your organisation. 

Conscious leaders are more emotionally intelligent, mindful and authentic, and they can gain and retain the trust of their employees. 

How does burnout affect leaders?

Burnout is at an all-time high among leaders, with more than six in ten managers experiencing burnout and a fifth considering quitting their jobs. Burnout affects leaders’ decision-making abilities, productivity and engagement with the company and employees. 

The effects of burnout don’t only impede company productivity but can also cause a ripple effect into leaders’ personal lives, relationships and wellbeing. The workplace is changing, and some managers’ boundaries between work and personal life are becoming more unclear. For their own sake and the sake of their teams, leaders need to become more consciously aware of how to support themselves to avoid burnout. This means learning more about yourself, what supports wellbeing, and your strengths and areas for development.

Companies also need to recognise that they must invest in their leaders’ wellbeing. Businesses need to rethink how they support and develop their leaders’ strengths and supply them with the tools they need to navigate challenges. Being conscious of burnout signs in leaders and how to prevent them from manifesting will help your teams be happier and healthier. 

Becoming a conscious leader to avoid burnout

Businesses need to rethink how they support and develop their leaders if they want to combat burnout. Leaders are people, not superhumans, and the pressure to support groups of employees weighs on them. 

When you have the tools to assess how conscious your organisation is, you will see higher satisfaction at all levels. Companies need to effectively satisfy their leaders’ needs because conscious leaders are more emotionally intelligent, mindful and authentic, and they can gain and retain the trust of their employees. 

Conscious leaders are more likely to be engaged at work and satisfied with their jobs, have better subjective well-being and be less likely to experience burnout. They are also more likely to perform better at work and engage in activities that contribute to the social and psychological core of the organisation. 

The great resignation and the ongoing pandemic have shifted the workplace and how we view mental health from a leadership standpoint. Being a conscious leader means being self-aware and holding yourself accountable while learning and growing alongside your team.

Natasha Wallace is the Founder and CEO of The Conscious Leadership Company, a leadership development platform that empowers leaders to take care of their performance and wellbeing. TCLC helps leaders thrive with tech that encourages them to continuously learn, reflect and track the way they feel — so they can do the best possible job and feel good while they do it.

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