Consider the prevalence of leader burnout during the past two or three years. We can shed some more light on the burnout phenomenon by looking at research conducted on the subject.
Researchers set out to compare multiple leadership traits and styles to gain a clear understanding of the conditions under which leaders survive (and even thrive), and their research points us towards some interesting clues. Transformational leaders appear to rely heavily on personal achievement and personal accomplishment. Physical exhaustion does not seem to affect them so much whereas emotional exhaustion has strong negative effects on them. Likewise, they thrive in a personalized world where relationships build business. The antithesis being that they wither and become ineffective in a de-personalized world. The study showed a direct correlation between transformational leadership and burnout.
Is it possible that you or your employees have ‘checked out’ from the job and just not told anyone?
Is it may be hard to get out of bed in the morning and get to the office? Do you get too excited when Friday finally arrives, because by the time it comes around, you feel completely worn out and exhausted? Has the fun seeped out from the work you used to love? Are there days when you feel like you are going through the motions but your heart is not really into your work? How about your employees? If we start to dig into the current working environment and closely examine employee engagement, it may show that our workforce has turned into the walking dead, corporate zombies. Should we be concerned? Most definitely!
Pushing anything beyond its limits is called overclocking, and that includes the human body. Humans have mechanical and physical endurance limits, much like machines, but the business world often does not make the connection when it comes to the demands it puts on executives. Executives are required to overclock themselves on a daily basis. Demands to PERFORM… DELIVER… INNOVATE… can be heard in the halls of the C-suites and echo deep within the leadership ranks. Executives take this battle cry to heart and get the job done, often without regard for their own well-being.
So, how long can executives maintain this corporate sprint while overclocking themselves? Our brains are real energy guzzlers and use up to 20 percent of our body’s total energy. If overclocking drains the brain’s energy, where do you think it will find more? It will find it in the rest of the body, at the expense of overall health. Eventually, they will also ‘overheat’ and simply shut down.
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Survival of the fittest? The financial crisis has done more than just hit organisations with increased financial stress. It has changed the very nature of leadership at the top. If we turn to the concept of natural selection, we can begin to see patterns in the boardroom and in the senior ranks of most organizations that follow that theory. It’s all about survival of the fittest at the top.
The question is, in this post-financial crisis era, who are the ‘fittest’ that survived?
It wasn’t too long ago that I met with a CEO of a company who told me that his management team was diverse. “Yes, yes, we have mostly Germans but we also have two Austrians, one Italian and a Swiss.” Leadership Diversity means different things to different people. After spending many years looking at the leadership pipeline for several big companies, I began to wonder if CEO’s actually value diversity at all. They talk about putting a woman here or there in a key leadership position and are always on the lookout for the rare culturally diverse individual who ‘fits’ well with the leadership of the organization. They think that’s enough. That’s really about the letter of the law when it comes to Diversity…including a few people who look different than the rest and we’re set. Diversity is so much more than that.
Traditionally, we have seen ‘thought leadership’ as a label for leaders who have lots of innovative ideas. We have always considered thought leaders as those who have the great ideas in the organisation and then others go out and implement those great ideas. Today, I was considering that maybe we could look at thought leadership in a whole new light. What if the leader was actually able to influence the team to use their own thoughts to strive towards better performance and ultimately better business results? If the leader stands as an example of ‘right thinking’ and demonstrates optimism, ethical behavior and positive determination to succeed, is it probable that the team will reflect that kind of leadership in their daily performance? Optimism is contagious and positive thinking goes viral once a leader demonstrates how it works.