Are you burning out?

This photo of me on my rusty and dented 1974 Norton Commando was taken a couple of years ago as I took part in The Distinguished Gentlemen’s Ride, a fundraising event that raises money for the Movember Foundation and mens health.

A few months later this same bike suffered a catastrophic mechanical failure that left me stranded in the countryside. A friendly landowner kindly allowed me to leave it overnight in a paddock, returning the next day to collect it. It was then parked in a dark corner of my garage until the COVID lockdown provided the time and space to more closely inspect it. When I eventually tore the bike down to trouble shoot the cause it became quickly evident it's internal components were pretty worn. One of the main engine components had fatigued over nearly 50 years of use and eventually snapped under the stress of riding up a long steep hill under acceleration. My bike was tired, run-down and in need of restoration. Not dissimilar to how many of us have been feeling lately.


If you’re feeling tired, fatigued, or worn-out, you’re in good company. The evidence is clear that we are amidst a stress pandemic, not just a viral one. This has been driven home for me by many conversations I’ve had with clients, colleagues, and friends as each of us grapples with sustaining ourselves through the various challenges being thrown at us right now, when it feels like we’re labouring up a long steep hill that seemingly never ends.

We’re not alone or unique here in Australia either. Every week I trawl the media and research being released globally by universities, think tanks and research organisations. As I read the various reports and papers, a theme sometimes emerges - a single thread that runs through each of them, tying separate ideas together into a cogent whole.


The big leadership topic that has been emerging recently is leadership burnout and sustainability. It’s perhaps not surprising that if most people are feeling stressed and fatigued by the onslaught of uncertainty and complexity in the world, then leaders will be feeling doubly challenged in their key roles as navigators and mobilisers.

Not only are we being expected to find a way through the mess, but we're also having to energise others to keep going, whilst reaching deep within ourselves to find the resources and resolve to keep forging ahead and put one foot in front of the other.

This article is therefore dedicated to helping each of us continue to do the important work of leadership whilst living life well, to the best of our ability.


What catalysed my thinking about the topic of leadership burnout and sustainability was the intersection of my