Leadership Burnout in 2022: Signs and Causes

As a leader or a business owner, you are probably accustomed to picking yourself back up and persevering through various adversities. But how long can you overextend yourself before your health, business, or even family suffers?

Gallup survey statistics for 2020 and 2021 indicate that management fatigue is getting worse. Some managers and corporate executives are showing signs of burnout because of late-stage pandemic fatigue.

The Global Leadership Forecast 2021 by Development Dimensions International finds that approximately 60% of leaders report feeling all used up at the end of their workday—which is a strong indicator of burnout.

So, what indicators can you look for as a leader to determine if you are approaching burnout?

4 Signs of leadership burnout


If you reach a point where your career dissatisfies you, you see no future in it, and the enthusiasm that formerly drove you has vanished, it may be time for a change. When you find it difficult to motivate yourself to go to work and nothing seems particularly exciting or inspiring to you, it is a clear sign that you may be approaching burnout.


Lethargy is another clear sign of burnout. Lethargy is a state of tiredness, lack of excitement, and loss of spirit. If you find yourself feeling fatigued at the end of the day at a rate of two to three times per week (or more), this is a warning sign. 


When you start to lose your temper over trivial matters, it is a sign that something is truly wrong.

Even if you are rationally aware that you must act professionally, it feels as if your negative emotions are frequently seeping into your work and relationships. This is an obvious sign of a burnout.

Lack of Clarity

If you cannot seem to find hope or celebrate your achievements, you are likely to become exhausted far more quickly. That hazy sensation in your head is a sign of prolonged stress. This makes it hard for you to focus on your interactions and even the simplest tasks that you need to do in your day-to-day as a leader.

Related Read: 8 Signs of A Toxic Workplace (And Your Role In It)

Are you experiencing leadership burnout? Here are some of the reasons. 

Over the past year, a lot of attention has been directed to the fact that pandemic-related workplace stressors are leading to a rise in employee burnout. Multiple measures were taken by HR teams to combat this issue. 

However, recent research suggests that leadership burnout may be an equally pressing issue.

Leaders who are burnt out are more likely to make mistakes, forget things, skip appointments, and take longer to respond to colleagues or clients. Essentially, they will not be able to perform at their best even with the future of their employees and business hanging on them.

Some causes of leadership exhaustion are obvious, whereas other factors are less apparent but potentially more significant. Here are the 12 leading causes of leadership burnout.

  1. Isolation

Have you ever heard of the expression “it is lonely at the top”? While it is common for people to experience feelings of isolation, usually the more the prominent position, the recognition, or the financial reward, then the more likely it is for you to feel alienated. This is especially true when you are working remotely.

However, the most important factor in isolation is a lack of meaningful connections with others, not the number or frequency of contact. Effective leadership networking can be extremely beneficial for you in such circumstances.

  1. Allostatic load

As a leader, you are often required to work long hours and be available at all times. You are also responsible for making decisions that will have a significant impact on the health of your company and yourself.

This level of burden and prolonged stress results in high levels of cortisol (the stress hormone). If left unaddressed, it can lead to heart problems, weight gain, impaired immunity, decreased memory due to brain cell atrophy, and decreased brain function.

  1. Negative mindset

Like most people, leaders frequently focus on what went wrong, what could go wrong, and what is wrong with them, which keeps them in a negative state. Worrying, overthinking, and ruminating will cause a steady release of adrenaline and cortisol, which is detrimental to your mind and body.

  1. Multitasking

Are you a multitasker? At some point in your career, you must have convinced yourself that multitasking increases your productivity and efficiency. However, research conducted at Stanford University found that attempting to perform two mental tasks simultaneously can reduce your mental capacity and cognitive abilities. 

According to research, multitasking can result in a 40% decrease in daily productivity. This decrease in efficiency is referred to as ‘task switch cost’. Additionally, continuous multitasking can also impair your long-term memory.

  1. Power stress

Every decision you make as a leader is consequential when the entire organization depends on you. The burden of being solely responsible and having control over that much power can have negative effects on your mental health, resulting in burnout. To make matters worse, some leaders tend to be unwilling to acknowledge that they are burned out, thus aggravating their symptoms.

  1. Digital overload

In today’s digital era, there is a constant stream of information vying for your attention at a rapid rate. Some people can easily adapt, while others can quickly feel overwhelmed.

As a result, you might have trouble filtering the information you take in. You might also become addicted to always being up-to-date and start comparing yourself to other people’s achievements. In the end, you have no time to relax and rejuvenate yourself (either physically or mentally).

  1. Overcommitment

Overcommitment can also contribute to leadership exhaustion, resulting in a feeling of being stretched too thin. A common cause of overcommitment is the inability to say “no” or establish and maintain healthy boundaries. 

Leaders who prioritize integrity, work quality, and a strong work ethic can be particularly vulnerable. The stakes are even higher if you are a perfectionist.

  1. Endless worksprints

It is not uncommon to work late or work on weekends in order to finish a particularly important project. However, when worksprints become the norm, even the most optimistic and driven leaders may start to lose their drive since they cannot take a breather and are unable to see the finish line.

  1. Personal issues

We are all human beings who have our own personal issues outside of work, whether it be a marital crisis, the illness or death of a loved one, or a family situation that requires your time and care. Your capacity as a leader is limited and can be depleted when you are forced to juggle a high-pressure role along with your own personal stress.

  1. Work conflict

When you have a strained relationship with key stakeholders at work, you will feel drained all the time. Whether it is with the board members, a coworker, or a direct report, if an important work relationship is consistently strained, it has a significant impact on your psyche and can lead to burnout.

  1. The Great Resignation

The Great Resignation is arguably one of the most alarming impacts of the pandemic. Managing the day-to-day complexities of a remote workforce while watching your finest staff leave is the formula for leadership burnout.

  1. Failures

Aside from exposure to long-term stress at work and holding a demanding position for an extended period of time, burnout can also occur when your efforts at work fail to yield the desired outcomes. This will leave you feeling profoundly disappointed and unmotivated to continue pursuing your goals. 

Related Read: The Role of Leadership Coaching in Building Psychological Safety

Leadership burnout is a serious issue

Putting off self-care to stay productive may sound heroic, but the reality is quite the opposite. Taking care of yourself benefits you and those around you as it allows you to perform at your best.

Are you currently experiencing some of the signs of leadership burnout?


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