Emotional Intelligence Skills for Leaders that Prevent Burn-out

Dr. Purushothaman
December 10, 2013

Developing emotional intelligence skills for renewed career enthusiasm: You've cherry picked the best supervisors possible after an arduous planning process. The contract states that your company has 8 months to complete a multi-million dollar municipal building. You've prepared your staff with management briefings, motivational speeches and overviews. The entire organization is aware that the goals of the project and the deadlines are enormous.

Safety on the job site is paramount and so is quality and meeting deadlines. It is one month into the on-sight work and you walk the perimeter of the project at dusk. You take stock of the progress and discover several possible safety concerns that should have been brought to your attention previously. In your assessment you are well behind the stated time lines for nearly all objectives laid out in the contract. You see one of your main supervisors leaving at 5:30pm. To make matters worse, you can't find a single manager. "Don't they get it?" "Why can't they see the big picture?" "I must be the only one who feels the pressure of getting this job done." "At this rate the project will take over a year to complete."

Where does emotional intelligence fit in with all this?

At some point, you find yourself taking a hard line with your managers and supervisors. Confronting them on their poor performance, lack of motivation and drive. They develop a negative attitude and begin to work against you. You consider firing them, but who could possibly fill their role at this point in the project?

You know how you want to behave, yet when you interact with certain supervisors you're blood begins to boil. You work hard to maintain your professionalism but your anger and frustration leaks out with sarcasm and subtle insults. You consider sharing your thoughts with your business partners but remember the negative impact it had the last time you shared your thoughts. They will only begin to question your ability to lead your employees.

Standing Alone

Trapped between enormous responsibility and a lack of shared commitment to the project, the leader stands alone. The experience of being alone is, as if you are the only grown up in the land of the needy. No one has the slightest idea what the project looks like from your perspective. You may even try to explain it to them but they are easily fatigued trying to comprehend what it is like to see the world through your eyes. Mature leaders that rise to the top have the ability to think of others and can tolerate the experience of being alone more than others. The unique demands of the professional world can be enormous for even the strongest leader. The experience often overwhelms leaders and they begin to burn-out.


Whether something in your life makes you more resilient to burn-out or more vulnerable to it depends on whether it provides you with energy or drains you. For example, if your spouse is able to simply listen to a dilemma you are having at work and empathizes with how much stress it is causing you, you may feel connected and supported. Conversely, if your spouse responds by panicking about financial ruin every time you complain about your job, you will naturally feel drained. This example demonstrates how the leader can become isolated at home too, causing additional feelings of loneliness and frustration that lead to burn-out.

Burn-out may result in losing control of your temper, anxiety, depression, alcohol abuse, sexual affairs or lack of interest in sex. These and other problems associated with burn-out may interfere with your life, compounding the original problems and ultimately taking away from job performance.

What can leaders do to maintain top performance in these situations? Ultimately, there are two things a leader can do to bolster their resilience to burn-out. First, continue to behave like a leader at work. When leaders get their needs met at work their is bound to be trouble. Second, grow personally and take care of yourself at home. Increased, ability to tolerate loneliness, for example, leads to a greater sense of peace and less turmoil.

How does a leader achieve these results?

Emotional Intelligence Skills are required to cope with the loneliness inherent with leadership roles. New leaders have made use of psychological information such as, Goleman Emotional Intelligence, that wasn't available to previous generations. Today's leaders use workshops, trainings and executive coaching address these issues regularly.

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