The Connection Between Leadership, Relationships & Burnout

This blog was born from a conversation held recently with a new client.  This client came for a herbal medicine and naturopathy consultation.  Through asking several questions, it became clear that this client was very close to or was already suffering adrenal “burn out” due to stress.

In our conversation she mentioned that she works as a care assistant looking after others, sometimes in the care centre itself and sometimes by going on home visits.  In other words, she spends her day giving to others, including kindness, simple The values of your organisation has a tremendous impact on your working relationships, which then impacts how likely you are to experience burnout.medical attention and companionship to help them feel the warmth of another human being, to be a part of life, as well as wanted and loved. 

How is it possible that someone who spends her time giving care to others misses out on any care herself?

This is the old adage of “the mechanic fixes everyone else’s car first and his car last?”  In other words, his car seldom gets any mechanical attention.  Giving to others means that our own resources need to be full up all the time to ensure we avoid draining our tank leading to constant tiredness, lack of energy and eventually physical and mental ill health.

As part of this conversation, the client muttered under her breath that “no one gives her any care”, further adding that she is holding up various members of her own family for one of other reason.  From my point of view, this situation begs many questions, each of which are addressed below:


What are the values of the organisation? 

It seems rather strange that an organisation that makes its money from giving care, does not consider care, kindness, wellbeing and health of its own employees, firstly through the organisation values and secondly in processes and procedures to support the mental and physical wellbeing of the “golden goose”. In other words, the very people that the organisation earns money through via the charged service they provide.


How can an organisation create its livelihood through caring for others and not do the same for their own employees? 

The answer to this question also links to the values of the organisation.  Overall it sounds very much like there are double standards, one for external clients who pay for the service and the other for internal clients, those that work in the organisation providing care.


Knowing the difficulties and daily stresses of working in healthcare how can the managers and leaders from the top down not pay attention to the care needs of its own people?

The ability to interact, feel and sense how each and every one of his or her team is doing is vital in any organisation to be able to add value to each and every employee, so that they in turn can add value to their customers through enjoyment of what they do.  This means developing relationships with each and every person in your team to know what is going on with them.  The ability to hear what is different from the norm, to “see” their behaviour through a direct sense, which might be referred to as intuition or sixth sense.  In “Why Should Anyone Be Led By You?”  By Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones they refer to this sixth sense as  “Situation sensing”.  In order to be effective at situation sensing Goffee and Jones explain that leaders need to have observational and cognitive skills to interpret what is happening around them, for example low morale, complacency that needs challenging and weak data. In the case of this lady, the fact that she is struggling and needs support with all the responsibilities that she is carrying.


How is the lack of care and attention to mental and physical wellbeing of personnel likely impacting the organisation? 

Of course, I can only make some educated guesses here, but with one member of the team coming to see me to address her lack of energy, erratic and at best very weak digestive system, poor sleep and severe lack of joy in her life, is likely a reflection of other employees who perform the same or similar roles to her.  Unproductive - simply going through the motions of her job, failing to see the needs of her clients, putting both the client and the company reputation in vulnerable positions.  Lack of patience and tolerance with those clients that are more challenging, lack of patience and tolerance with herself, inability to focus and operating by auto pilot, all of which combine together and ultimately result in inevitably taking sick leave. 

21.2 days is the average number of days lost to mental ill health in the UK (, including anxiety, depression and stress when a person files for sick leave.  What is more cost effective, taking care of your personnel to provide an environment, working practices and leadership that supports each and every person in doing a good job for both themselves and the organisation, or ignoring the signs of stress, anxiety, fatigue and  lack of joy, potentially leading to mental or physical burnout?

A case through the eyes of a departed duty manager:  A small, privately owned hotel situated about 10 miles out of London in a very pretty town on the river Thames.  As the majority of the personnel, including the duty managers are not local, all are offered accommodation, for a monthly rental fee in the hotel.  The rooms with small ensuite shower are very small with space only for a bed and chair.  

The owner appears unable to give out trust to his team, keeping a close eye on everything and operating with strict rules, irrelevant of how those rules might interfere with providing guests and restaurant customers a good level of service.  For example, staff meals are to be taken at a particular time and if not able to take a break at that time, food cannot be taken away and eaten later.  It should be thrown in the bin!  One duty manager was surprised to find at the end of the month that his salary was less than the contracted amount.  On enquiring as to the reason, was informed that he was not adding the expected level of value and therefore his salary was reduced.  There was no discussion to enquire how things are going, whether he was happy, whether he needed some help to become more effective etc.  The salary was simply cut with no explanation.  Correction of personnel in front of the guest was apparently common-place.  By now I think you have the picture of the kind of manager and leader, we are dealing with?  Situation sensing is not a part of his skill set.


What is the likely result of this leadership approach?

After three months the duty manager on finding another job, where he felt he can add value and be recognised in return for that, left the hotel giving the contractual one week’s notice.  

Another duty manager in the same hotel, simply did not come in for his early morning shift.  Without a word he left the hotel and has to this point not returned.  His mother did however inform the hotel that he had found another job and would not be returning.  Reading between the lines, it is likely that the atmosphere and behaviour of the owner drove him to leave, giving no second thought to employment procedures and rules, not caring about the salary that he might be due, rather valuing his self-respect, knowledge, skills and freedom more highly than his previous employer did?


What is the impact of this style of management and leadership on health, wellbeing and the business?

It is difficult to find the right balance in any leadership role between over control and the appropriate level of control.   To give out trust, but at the same time not over trust, to build meaningful relations with each and every team member and to support as needed but not do their jobs for them.  This cannot be done by being too distant, or by being too close.  In each and every case it is about assessing the individual, knowing them well and recognising when things are out of balance and consequently going in the wrong direction, for either one or both parties.

In both the illustrated hotel cases, these individuals found a way out before affecting their personal wellbeing.  What about the lady who is on adrenal burnout, the one who is supporting most of her family members and has no resources left in her tank to even contemplate changing jobs?


To learn how we can help you and your organisation, email Rachel directly at



Why should anyone be led by you?  Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones


Rachel Shackleton is an entrepreneur who owns and manages Green Key Personal Development and Green Key Health. Working with local and multinational organisations, she is a public speaker and trainer in the spheres of leadership, communication and customer excellence. She ensures sustainable productivity and profitability through healthy self-management and leadership practices, ensuring a focused and successful workforce.






New here? I write about leadership development, communication and customer excellence, including health and well-being at work. You can read similar blogs here:


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