This chapter is about how leadership style affects burnout in organisations. It’s also about how burnt-out leaders can either make everyone else’s life hell or just collapse. Most of us can think of bosses who have been a nightmare to work for:

  • • The Type A tyrants who were workaholics and expected everyone else to be the same.
  • • The dithering, indecisive, laissez-faire bosses who couldn’t make a decision to save their life.
  • • The nasty, manipulative, 'kiss up and kick down’ psychopathic types.

Some of us will also have stories of great bosses, the sort of bosses that you would move mountains for. Bosses who would fight for the time and resources that you needed to do a good job. The kind, supportive bosses whom you always felt able to talk to, and the positive bosses who always made a point of saying thank you when you’d done a good job.

In this chapter, I discuss three of the dominant leadership styles: transactional leadership, transformational leadership and destructive leadership.

For the last category, I consider the Dark Triad - where psychopathy meets management theory. I then look at the literature on leadership style and burnout, and figure out which leadership style minimises the risk of burnout.

It’s important to understand the role leadership plays in burnout for two reasons. Firstly, the leaders of an organisation determine its culture; in Chapter 8, I explain how the most important factor affecting burnout is organisational culture. Secondly, the relationship between the individual employee and their immediate line manager plays a massive role in that employee’s well-being. It is the line manager who often determines whether the employee has a reasonable workload, takes proper rest breaks, and feels motivated and engaged. This relationship between leaders (at whatever level) and members of an organisation is primary in determining the well-being of members of the organisation. Leadership has a profound impact on culture and burnout.

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