Jacinda Ardern's Resignation: A Wake-up Call for the Importance of Addressing Burnout Among Leaders
On January 19th, 2023, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced her resignation, saying “I know what this job takes, and I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice”. She might have not used the word burnout, but she described it.
The past few years have been challenging for leaders around the world, as the COVID-19 pandemic has placed immense pressure on governments to manage the health crisis and its economic impacts. For Prime Minister Ardern, this pressure was compounded by her role as a working mother, as she had to balance the demands of leading a country during a global crisis with the responsibilities of raising her young child.
In her resignation statement, Ardern acknowledged the toll that this pressure had taken on her, saying, "I am not the first leader to have to make this decision, and I won't be the last.”
The resignation of Prime Minister Ardern highlights the issue of burnout among leaders which is something that is not discussed enough because of the stigma that surrounds it. Many leaders feel that admitting to burnout is a sign of weakness, and they fear that it will be viewed as an inability to handle the demands of their role. This fear of judgment and negative perception can prevent leaders from seeking the support they need.
However, burnout is not something that can be ignored. It can lead to serious health problems, such as depression and anxiety, and it can have a detrimental effect on a leader's performance and decision-making abilities. It's important for leaders to recognize the signs of burnout and to take steps to address it.
One way to do this is by creating a culture of openness and support within organizations. Leaders should encourage open and honest communication about the challenges of leadership and the importance of self-care. They should also lead by example by taking time for themselves and prioritizing their well-being.
An often-cited leader of our generation, Jacinda Ardern, took a brave step by acknowledging her burnout and prioritizing her personal well-being.
Her resignation should serve as a reminder that burnout is a real issue that affects everyone (directors, managers, employees) and that caring for your well-being does not make you weak, it makes you a true great leader.