How a Leader Maintains High Productivity Without Team Burnout

While completing my Bachelor’s of Science in Organizational Leadership I was required to produce a capstone research project. The subject I selected was How a Leader Maintains High Productivity Without Team Burnout. This material was relevant when I researched it in 2011; It is even more relevant now as I enter the nursing profession six years later.

One in every five high-performing employees will experience full-blown symptoms of burnout in the first ten years of their career. (Casserley & Megginson, 2009, pp. 188).

I’ve decided to experiment with how to present this information in a blog format and have chosen to split it into smaller bite-size chunks. This is the first post in a 9-post series. (Feedback is appreciated on the format because I have several other research papers I would love to share in the future.) 

 How a Leader Maintains High Productivity Without Team Burnout

Statement of Purpose

The purpose of this project is to determine what leadership traits and behaviors can empower a leader to maintain a high-productivity team without team member burnout. The goal is to identify three principles that are consistently recommended. Then the study will continue by interviewing a leader that has been successful in this particular area to discover how these theories are applied in real-life business scenarios.

This paper assumes that the likelihood of team member burnout can be reduced, or even prevented, based on leadership decisions and behaviors.

The amount of material available on the subject of building high-performance teams, managing stress and preventing burnout is extensive. Research by Casserley & Megginson has found that there is a correlation between burnout and “those who are in the early stages of their careers, are highly achievement-focused and restlessly pursue success in their careers–in most organizations such people are regarded as high flyers.” (Casserley & Megginson, 2009, pp. 188) This study will focus on how leaders can help people that are naturally high performers –those that invest large amounts of energy, time and focus into their jobs–continue to perform optimally without burning out. It will not delve into the subject of building high-performance teams or motivating employees to become high performers.

 “One in every five high-performing employees will experience full-blown symptoms of burnout in the first ten years of their career.” - Casserley & Megginson One in every five high-performing employees will experience full-blown symptoms of burnout in the first ten years of their career. This statistic does not cover the percentage of high achievers that are experiencing partial burnout (Casserley & Megginson, 2009, pp. 188). Casserley & Megginson state in their research, “All of the high flyers currently experiencing burnout or who had experienced burnout previously, attributed their symptoms to work, rather than home life.” (Casserley & Megginson, 2009, pp. 24) The researcher agrees with Casserley & Megginson in their “firm belief that while the organization creates the conditions for burnout to occur, it is the individual – through his or her own choices – who determines whether they burnout or not.” (2009, pp. 43) There are numerous resources to help individuals deal with burnout. These principles will not be covered in this study. Instead, this study seeks to find ways that a leader can intervene and help his/her employee(s) avoid burnout.

Furthermore, this study will not delve into the business implications of burnout, although there is much to be said about the financial implications. This study will assume that “…organizational stressors can create substantial ill health among employees and that distressed employees can create considerable organizational dysfunction.” (Quick, Quick, Nelson, & Hurrell, Jr., 1997, pp. 150).

The very definition and description of burnout is complex. Most books encompass at least one chapter in this endeavor. Appendix A, An overview of burnout from Preventive stress management in organizations, and Appendix B, The Seven Aspects of Burnout, are a good place to start

Survey Of Literature

Common themes were identified through a survey of literature. These themes were grouped into three principles that leaders can to utilize to mitigate the risk of burnout with high performers. (Future posts will include a literature survey for each principle.)

Principle One: Build engagement through company culture.

Principle Two: Guard against distress and utilize stress as a tool for growth.

Principle Three: Learn to manage energy.

 3 Principles to prevent burnout: build engagement through company culture, guard against distress and utilize stress as a tool for growth, learn how to manage energy.


The interview focuses on how a specific leader increases employee engagement, manages the stress load of his team and models healthy behaviors and attitudes.



I have chosen to exclude the conclusions from my paper. Burnout prevention is a complex topic and I want to avoid trite, platitudes that suggest a one-size-fits all solution. However, I will recap some key points in the final post for this series.


Blanchard, K., Carew, D., & Parisi-Carew, E. (2000). The one minute manager builds high performing teams (2nd ed.). New York, NY: William Morrow and Company, Inc.

Casserley, T., & Megginson, D. (2009). Learning from burnout: Developing sustainable leaders and avoiding career derailment. Burlington, MA: Butterworth-Heinemann.

Cooper, C. L. (1998). Theories of organizational stress. New York, NY: Oxford University Press Inc.

Cora, G. (2010).’s leading under pressure: Strategies to avoid burnout, increase energy, and improve your well-being. Pompton Plains, NJ: Career Press.

Loehr, J., & Schwartz, T. (2003). The power of full engagement: Managing energy, not time, is the key to high performance and personal renewal. New York, NY: Free Press Paperbacks.

Maslach, C., & Leiter, M. P. (1997). The truth about burnout: How organizations cause personal stress and what to do about it. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Potter, B. (1998). Overcoming job burnout: How to renew enthusiasm for work (2nd ed.). Berkeley, CA: Ronin Publishing, Inc.

Quick, J. C., Quick, J. D., Nelson, D. L., & Hurrell, Jr., J. J. (1997). Preventive stress management in organizations. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Smith, L. (2011). Engage, commit, grow! How to create and sustain a culture of high performance: A Guide for CEO’s and management teams with courage to pursue extraordinary success. Denver, CO: Outskirts Press, Inc.

Table of Contents

The series

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