Torch, Fall 1984

T he 1980s are marked by intense , job-related stress and the subsequent burnout phenomenon, a growing concern for workers in many occupations and at all levels within an organization . Because stress af– fects every line of work, burnout is not a job-specific hazard. Although burnout, called the in– dustrial disease of this decade, af– fects all occupations , professionals in leadership positions are vulnerable because these chief executive offi– cers, pastors, and middle and lower level managers have extended con– tact with other individuals . The term burnout may be defined as depletion of oneself; the exhaust– ing of physical and mental resources; the wearing out of oneself by exces– sively striving to reach some un– realistic expectation imposed by oneself or by the values of society. Burnout results from the continual, unrelieved stress caused by overin– tensity in goal achievement. A misconception of biblical leadership may easily point an ad– ministrator toward burnout. Biblical leadership involves a giving of one– self in service to others to influence and guide their activities by provid– ing training and direction toward or– ganizational goals . However, Chris– tian managers may suffer from burn– out because of overcommitment. Christians are taught to give them- 12 selves totally to God and to their work and often do so with society's definition of total commitment - overachievement. Dedication to per– sonal or organizational goals may be– come excessive , and burnout is in– evitable whenever the expectation level is dramatically opposed to real– ity and the leader persists in trying to reach that expectation. Society tends to define success in terms of money, promotion, pres– tige, power, and possessions and to suggest that "what the mind of man can conceive and believe, the mind of man can achieve." This method of thinking forces a professional into striving for unattainable goals . Instead of reaching for unrealistic expectations, the Christian has the re– sponsibility to plan and live to achieve the full potential that God has intended. Furthermore , those work– ing for development of their godly potential often achieve more in a lifetime than overachieving men and women who burn out prematurely . Hard work, long hours, and insuf– ficient rest in themselves seldom lead to job burnout. Rather, burnout is a chronic condition which an indi– vidual works toward over a period of weeks, months, or years. It is not exhibited in a sudden surge of nega– tive behavior, but instead appears to be a response to the chronic, daily pressures of working closely with people. These pressures include making unpopular decisions, dealing with criticism, fulfilling family obli– gations, and maintaining a distance from followers. What actually changes over time is one's tolerance for the continual stress. The tolerance gradually wears away under the never-ending series of daily irritations . In addition, burn– out involves diminishing resources, and becomes more acute when these stores are not replaced . A person be– comes exhausted by excessive de– mands on his energy or on emotional resources when he has no sources or time to rebuild physical or emotional reserves . The responsibilities of leadership are weighty. Besides directing a busi– ness, a school, or a church toward . institutional goals and managing capable employees, the leader also must deal with depressed, suspi– cious, and self-centered subordi– nates . Conflicting personalities must be motivated to work together. Also, the manager must resolve conflicts and accept and deflect work hostility. Managing people is the most difficult administrative task, and if the stress involved builds to extremes, burnout can occur. Pastors face a set of unique pres– sures. The ministry is a vocation in which a leader is required to be all things to all people, and he is never