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Leadership Burnout- You Can’t Pour From An Empty Cup

Published January 18, 2023 (last updated on March 4, 2024) | Adam Wyatt - Content Writer

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News of [1]Jacinda Ardern’s resignation as New Zealand’s Prime Minister sent waves across the world. While many were shocked when the news first made headlines, others didn’t hesitate to express their bitter disappointment at a seemingly premature exit from her role as the leader of the ‘Paradise of the Pacific’; while some attributed her decision to the countless threats she’s received during her time as the leader of the nation.

Citing burnout as the sole reason, Jacinda Ardern, a global leader displayed transparency and vulnerability on the world stage. In that moment, she made it abundantly clear that even leaders of the highest rank, experience burnout and were not immune to the very real challenges the pandemic brought. Leadership burnout is not a new phenomenon, or a fancy term coined during the pandemic. It’s been around for a long time just that it was not the norm to talk about freely or display signs of burnout due to societal and sometimes cultural conventions.

Many leaders have put themselves and their well-being on the back burner and focused purely on their people. The idea of soldiering on and building resilience through every challenge they faced may have seemed like the ideal and proper thing to do as a leader especially since they were responsible for not just leading but helping their teams survive and thrive through the many challenges of the past few years.

Felix Yeung, Head of Health, and Safety at Employsure commented, “Leaders often feel the responsibility to serve with non-stop positivity and have the answers to every challenge. The pressure, isolation, and weight that comes with being at the top is not just isolating but overwhelming for many leaders.”

“In a post-pandemic world, leadership burnout is at an all-time high and it shouldn’t be mistaken for stress, though they are connected. Experiencing excess stress or unmanaged stress for extended periods can cause burnout. The significant difference is that stress can be reduced, whereas burnout is trickier to resolve due to the overall symptoms and effects.”

“It seems almost counterintuitive to say that to be a great leader, we need to focus on ourselves – Focusing on ourselves, as leaders through managing our own well-being is the best thing, we can do to support our teams. Leaders need to take time for themselves and ensure they are in good form firstly for themselves, secondly, for their families, and finally, for the teams they lead. We cannot serve others when we have nothing left to give – One cannot pour from an empty cup,” concluded Mr Yeung.


[1] Jacinda Ardern announces resignation as New Zealand prime minister – ABC News

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