New DDI Study Reveals Leaders Are Struggling With Burnout, Which Could Create Retention Issues

An unprecedented year of ongoing change and a lack of confidence in current and future leadership could lead to retention problems within the next year. The lack of confidence is being fueled by burnout and a sense of constant crisis, according to DDI’s Global Leadership Forecast 2021.
These are just two of the findings from the study, which was conducted by DDI and HR analyst Josh Bersin. The study is the largest of its kind and includes data from more than 15,000 leaders and 2,102 human resource professionals. These leaders represent more than 1,740 organizations across more than 24 industries globally. The survey began in February 2020 and ran through July 2020, capturing many of the changes in leadership that occurred before and during the pandemic.
“There are clear signs that the pandemic will lead to serious retention issues because leaders who are feeling burnout are nearly four times more likely to leave their positions within the next year,” said Stephanie Neal, director of DDI’s Center for Analytics and Behavioral Research. “This could cause a lasting impact on current and future leaders, since 86 percent of high-potential employees are also feeling burnout, and they’re twice as likely to leave compared to their peers. There’s reason to be concerned about the future of leadership across the board.”
The study found that leaders and employees are burning out at record rates. Nearly 60 percent of leaders report they feel used up at the end of the workday, which is a strong indicator of burnout. Feelings of exhaustion greatly increase the probability of leaders leaving for other opportunities. Approximately 44 percent of leaders who feel used up at the end of the day expected to change companies to advance, while 26 percent expected to leave within the next year. These numbers are significantly high compared to 24 percent of leaders who expect to change companies to advance and 6 percent who plan to leave within the next year.
“We’re in an extremely unpredictable economic climate that’s going to require leaders to be able to quickly adapt and embrace change if they hope to survive,” Bersin said. “CHROs are already preparing for continued uncertainty by revamping management training to address current workforce challenges while developing and upskilling employees and exploring flexible work arrangements. They’re also focusing on creating more diverse, equitable workplaces and strengthening leadership benches by exploring employees’ leadership aspirations and potential.”
In addition to burnout and retention, the Global Leadership Forecast 2021 also revealed:
“The pandemic has impacted everyone, and a lot of people are struggling since they’re being pulled in so many different directions to take on constantly changing objectives, markets and strategies,” Neal said. “Organizations have had to make drastic changes in the way they work just to continue to function during the pandemic. Many changes were inevitable, but with no real end in sight, organizations need to make adapting a priority to avoid a potential leadership and retention crisis.”
For more information, including the full report, visit
About DDI
DDI is a global leadership consulting firm that helps organizations hire, promote and develop exceptional leaders. From first-time managers to C-suite executives, DDI is by leaders’ sides, supporting them in every critical moment of leadership. Built on five decades of research and experience in the science of leadership, DDI’s evidence-based assessment and development solutions enable millions of leaders around the world to succeed, propelling their organizations to new heights. For more information, visit
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Stephanie Neal, director of DDI’s Center for Analytics and Behavioral Research
Contact:Brad PedersenPR Specialist, 412-485-9767
Source: DDI