“Dear Stress, I would like a divorce. Please understand it is not you. It is me.” – Dr. Thomas E. Rojo Aubrey.

According to its medical definition, burnout is the loss of emotional and physical strength, due to prolonged exposure to frustration and stress.

Burnout in the non-executive workforce has long been a recognized and well-researched issue. It does, however, affect C-suite executives to at least the same degree as rank-and-file employees.

reduce stress

Stress is the primary driver of burnout and the resulting depression. 

Executives have a presence and an image to maintain. Being emotionally erratic does not fit this executive image, which is why many C-level victims of burnout are reluctant to acknowledge that the problem even exists.

Overachievers, perfectionists, and type-A personalities are particularly vulnerable to the effects of prolonged stress since they are prone to accept it as their new norm.

How can you deal with executive burnout? How can you avoid it?

  • Learn to recognize its symptoms. Accept that you are not immune to it.
  • Create a well-defined work-life balance.
  • Build up your resilience.
  • Focus on meaning and purpose. Reconnect with the joys of your work.
  • Ensure physical and psychological safety in the workplace.

Recognizing Executive Burnout

Most C-level executives are poorly equipped to recognize the symptoms of burnout. They tend to accept that the highly intense mode in which they operate is business as usual. They grant the interests of their organization higher priority than their own wellbeing and long-term. However, such an approach is a faulty leadership strategy.

The predictive symptoms of burnout may differ from one person to another. However, they do tend to fit into three indicator categories.

  • Frustration is usually the first burnout predictor to set in. The leader feels overwhelmed and unable to deal with the immensity of his/her tasks.
  • Anger follows, leading to the leader lashing out in an uncharacteristically immature manner. He/she might squarely refuse to perform a task or blame others for failure.
  • During the apathy stage, the leader stops caring. This stage may signal the beginning of psychological and physical burnout.

Creating a Work-life Balance

Experience shows that leaders who can successfully separate their work from their personal lives are the most resilient to burnout. Some are naturally inclined to create a work-life balance. Others have to learn as they go.

Have something for which you have to leave work at least 2-3 days a week. Allocate time for physical fitness, family, etc.

Building up Your Resilience


Focus on self-care and building up your resilience.

As I have pointed out in my books, besides leadership maturity, resilience hinges on self-acceptance, and wellbeing. Focus on developing your elements of character and do not neglect your personal wellbeing. It is one of your best tools to avoid burnout.

Focusing on Meaning and Purpose

For scores of burned-out C-level executives, reconnecting with the joys of their work proved to be the key to addressing their condition. Being able to relive the excitement that you first felt about the work you are currently doing, can open up a new perspective that may allow you to bypass stress, frustration, and anger.

Physical and Psychological Safety

While physical safety is easy to ensure at work, psychological safety is a different matter. It can be extremely fragile, as people tend to avoid conflicts and discussing problems. Communicating the power dynamics of the organization and teaching people how to navigate it is the key to ensuring their psychological safety.

Executive burnout is difficult to address. Its drivers include financial factors, expectations stemming from consumerism, generational differences, and limited resources.

Today’s leaders can, however, set up an effective leadership strategy to deal with it. Hiring executive coaches to build up the required competencies is one such approach. Check out my leadership coaching services!


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