The Psychological impact of COVID-19: Are senior leaders in organisations at risk of burnout?

Activity: Consultancy


To address the growing public health crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic, numerous countries around the world have introduced drastic measures to reduce disease transmission. Among these measures, forced lockdown has had a significant impact on the balance between personal and professional lives changing forever the landscape of our businesses but also the way society views working from home. As a result of the lockdown, numerous businesses were forced to close down their buildings and millions of individuals had to change their ways of working/leading, trying to find a balance between professional and personal life, all within the space of their homes. While burnout is traditionally associated with long days at the office, it isn't limited to that scenario. The burnout syndrome is described as progressive loss of idealism, energy and purpose experienced by people in the helping professions as a result of conditions of their work (Maslach, Schaufeli, Leiter, 2001). Thus, the pandemic has brought an enforced change in lifestyle for most people, e.g., workers are working longer hours, parents are juggling home-schooling and work, leaders being unable to take any leave. Several studies have looked at the role that leadership style might play on employee burnout showing that different leadership styles can decrease the likelihood of experiencing burnout (Corrigan, Diwan, Campion, et al., 2002; Kanste, Kyngäs, & Nikkil, 2007; Sellgren, Ekvall, & Tomson, 2007). More specifically, previous studies showed that leadership styles characterized by the ability of the leader to engage in clear communication and active listening, empathize with employees and co-workers, adopt compassionate and ethical approaches to problem-solving, and exhibit willingness to accept recommendations are associated with lower incidence of burnout among employees. However, none of these studies have looked at the experience of burnout among leaders. Moreover, in the context of a worldwide pandemic crisis with leaders having to exhibit these characteristics in their interactions with their employees while having to juggle their own personal life, leaders are currently more susceptible to experiencing emotional exhaustion themselves. The aim of this study is to understand how leaders are dealing with the psychological demands of crisis management during a global pandemic and forced lockdown measures.
Period5 Jul 202028 Dec 2020
Work forSchool for CEOs, United Kingdom
Degree of RecognitionNational


  • COVID-19
  • burnout syndrome
  • psychological resilience
  • leadership

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)