Jacinda Ardern, PM of New Zealand.

Before the holidays, I wrote two pieces for CNBC about cybersecurity, which is a growing crisis in the small business community and a new challenge for regulators. They were published last week.


We Are All Jacinda Now

Jacinda Arden of New Zealand announced last week that she’ll step down in three weeks, and won’t seek re-election. She said she doesn’t have enough fuel in the tank to do the job well. The highly-regarded prime minister had pushed through progressive anti-poverty initiatives, faced the pandemic, and led her country through one of the worst mass shootings in recent memory. And, she has a young daughter.

People were quick to frame this – and indeed, the way she spoke about it reinforced the frame – as an individual burning out. We’re all Arden, and we’re all burnt out.

People are quitting and many workers who still have jobs dread them even more, now. (And the people who actually do like their jobs, could lose them imminently as companies are laying off tens of thousands of workers.)

There is a wider-angle lens to use on this question of burnout. The question is what happens to a society, whether it’s New Zealand or the U.S. or global society, in the aftermath of a shared trauma: the pandemic and the political unrest in response to it, followed by global inflation and the threat of a nuclear war in Ukraine.

Last year, as the pandemic restrictions lifted, all the pent-up energy was released, as people who could bought, and traveled and reconnected. I think the instinct for many, going into the third year, will be to turn inward towards the U.S., to repair the damage done to family, to young people, and in a broader sense, the country’s social structures. In a well-functioning society, one imagines, leaders step up to give earlier generations of leaders that chance to heal. The transitions between one leader and the next take time. More decisions are made communally, because individuals’ mental health has suffered. We’ll see if that happens in the U.S.

Even in the finance system, the pace in the U.S. is changing: It’s slow money at higher interest rates, not easy money. The focus for entrepreneurs will be more onbuilding profits, not on growth.

Smart business leaders will prepare to help their workforces: it’s about how to build the needed support structures so people can take the time to heal, rather than quit quietly or burnout. The key questions for this year will be where people direct their energies—family and friends? Work? Community? Health? Yourself? The nation, the planet?

This story and others on New Builders Dispatch are made possible by a sponsorship from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is a private, nonpartisan foundation that provides access to opportunities that help people achieve financial stability, upward mobility, and economic prosperity – regardless of race, gender, or geography. The Kansas City, Mo.-based foundation uses its grantmaking, research, programs, and initiatives to support the start and growth of new businesses, a more prepared workforce, and stronger communities. For more information, visit www.kauffman.org and connect with www.twitter.com/kauffmanfdn and www.facebook.com/kauffmanfdn.