While leaders have different styles, one thing is certain: great leadership creates a ripple effect. That ripple effect can have an incredible impact – inspiring innovation, influencing culture, and facilitating strong team engagement. Relatedly, when leaders are at their best, the act of leading can be filled with creativity and positive energy.

Yet, we also know the opposite can be true. When leaders face a continuous and intense set of pressures – from working in crisis environments to dealing with toxic individuals – leadership can sap joy for both the leader and her team. In today’s working world, the need for insightful and inspiring perspectives on leadership is at an all-time high. 

I’m grateful to know Daisy Auger-Dominguez through several leadership and career forums, and so many have benefitted from her exceptional perspectives. Her book Inclusion Revolution ignited a spark for dialogue and action, setting the stage for new approaches to inclusive leadership that changed the game for so many. Daisy’s next book, Burnt Out to Lit Up: How to Reignite the Joy of Leading People, will be released on September 18 – and it comes at a pertinent time. Leaders are working through myriad challenges, some unprecedented.  But they want to – and need to – inspire the teams around them. Finding that inspiration often starts with better understanding and taking care of ourselves.

During our Q&A – as well as through the excerpts she shares here – Daisy reminds us that leadership starts with caring for ourselves in ways that nourish us, that spark us, and that help us share joy with the people we lead. Her vibrant and experienced perspective is just what the world needs now, so we can help ourselves and others – and most important, sustain the joy of leading for the long-term.

1. Laura: In my view, Burnt Out to Lit Up is very timely — and you bring such a depth of expertise in organizational culture from which leaders will truly benefit.  Is there a specific moment or experience that acted as a catalyst for the book or was it a blend of factors over time?

Daisy: I’d say it was a mosaic of experiences. Raised in the Dominican Republic under the shadows of a complex past and moving to the United States as a junior in high school – when I became “Hispanic” – I learned to prioritize the needs of others above my own, to straddle cultures and identities.  Through my professional climb as a Latina executive, I built ninja-level skills leading in strained environments, often at my own expense, setting a pattern that, unchecked, led to burnout again and again. This book captures lessons learned as a steward of people, operations, and organizations, aimed at revolutionizing how we show up for ourselves, our teams, and our organizations.

As a manager and leader dedicated to transforming organizations to grow through inclusive practices, I know that reshaping systems is relentless, complex, and often fraught with depletion, skepticism, and resistance to change. In these moments, we must carve out spaces to pause, reflect, recharge, and reset.  

Burned Out to Lit Up: How to Reignite the Joy of Leading People is a response to the pressures of navigating this terrain skillfully while maintaining your humanity. This book is meant to be a guide to help you replenish your energy and reignite your inner spark. Because the work of building truly inclusive, high-performing workplaces needs all of you!

Excerpt from book, Chapter 1: Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire: Recognizing the Signs of Burnout

I’ve been burned out more times than I care to remember.

Burnout starts somewhere, and it varies from person to person. For me, it began as far back as I can remember.

My upbringing in the Dominican Republic, cared for by grandparents who had endured a brutal dictatorship, were compelled to leave their homeland to raise young children in a foreign country, and eventually returned as older parents to their first granddaughter, instilled within me a deep sense of maturity and responsibility from a very early age.

I not only imposed high expectations on myself to excel and be a “good girl”—whether at school, family gatherings, or social events—but also learned to suppress my own discomfort and prioritize others’ needs over my own. This, regrettably, led to my failure to establish healthy boundaries and effective coping mechanisms to manage conflict and stress. My coping methods revolved around performance, maintaining a constant smile, and disregarding emotional and physical warning signals.

It turns out, I’m not alone.

During the COVID-19 crisis, my primary focus revolved around guiding global teams through what seemed like an endless health emergency. My daily routine was marked by providing emotional support to peers, teammates, and colleagues, offering a compassionate ear for their concerns, and extending empathy and understanding. All the while, I grappled with an overwhelming array of work challenges that spanned nearly every time zone, crossed cultural and geographic boundaries, and encompassed both personal and operational domains, often without a guidebook. Balancing the standard HR function of recruitment, retention and growth practices with emerging facilities concerns, re-entry processes and interpersonal tensions, health and wellbeing crises that constantly popped up across teams kept my to-do list on a heavy rotation.

The causes of my burnout were clear: managing global teams in a 24/7 environment, shouldering the responsibility of guiding managers overseeing their respective teams, and supporting executive leaders overseeing the entirety of it all. My professional load was further compounded by the challenges of parenting a teenager and striving to be a good wife. However, as a Latina, it didn’t stop there; I also attempted, and frequently fell short, to fulfill my roles as a daughter, granddaughter, sister, cousin, niece, and aunt, not to mention a friend.

It felt like my mind was constantly aflame, with every call, text, or email setting off my nervous system.

But I just kept going, not making room for rest.

It wasn’t just my burnout that needed addressing. I was also responsible for the collective burnout felt by teams worldwide, the complex operational puzzle that management and leadership teams had to untangle as a consequence, and the deep well of empathy we had to draw from while navigating uncharted waters.

Caught in this vicious cycle of performance, adjustment, adaptation, and change, I failed to notice my gradual decline in functioning. Externally, I continued to sustain a high level of performance. However, the relentless stressors silently eroded my mental faculties, making me feel like a sluggish sloth attempting to navigate life in perpetual slow motion.

The chronic stress I experienced also wreaked havoc on my physical well being. Seemingly simple actions like getting up from my chair became painful, my weight and gut health spiraled into disarray, and I grappled with persistent rashes and inflammation that left me feeling like my body was aflame. 

Sustained stress, or chronic stress, is when your mind and body are in a never-ending tug-of-war, stretched to their limits. According to the American Psychological Association, it’s the kind of tension that just won’t quit, thanks to ongoing stressors like work dramas, financial troubles, relationship rollercoasters, health upheavals, or even environmental shenanigans. And guess what? Chronic stress isn’t just a minor inconvenience; it’s the sneakily harmful troublemaker that messes with your mental and physical well-being.

Adding fuel to the cauldron of my burnout, as I dedicated myself entirely to work, I unintentionally distanced myself from the people who cared about me the most, intensifying the toll that burnout exacted on my life.

I felt disoriented and perpetually fatigued, trapped in a relentless activity loop without the rest and replenishment that my body craved.

I was burnt crispy and I neglected it for far too long.

2. Laura: As people – and as leaders – we can often be aware when we need to make changes, but struggle to sustain change without practical tools. In your book, you share techniques for managers to better understand themselves and lead their teams to create high performing workplaces.  Can you share a tip that stands out or one that you’d like to highlight?

Daisy: So many! Throughout Burnt Out to Lit Up, I share scripts at the end of each chapter so the reader can contextualize the learnings and make them their own. In the final chapter, I highlight seven practices in an effort to shape the work of reckoning with burnout as a practice that can transform us into the leaders we want to be.

One transformative practice is about reframing our inner narratives. So often, our reactions and decisions are guided by scripts written in our earlier life chapters—scripts that no longer serve us. By stepping back and questioning these preconceptions; we can begin to dismantle the barriers they create. It’s about transforming our internal dialogue, recognizing our past’s influence, and consciously choosing a narrative that empowers and enriches our interactions, particularly in leadership.

Excerpt from Chapter 8: Beyond Burnout

Practice #2: Reframe Your Inner Scripts

We all tread through life carrying internal storylines shaped by our earliest experiences and deepest fears. These narratives, much like pre-written scripts, dictate our expectations and reactions, often stemming from the more difficult chapters of our childhood. Take a look at these familiar scripts:

  • When I make a mistake, I brace for severe criticism. So, I rarely own up to my errors.
  • When I trust someone, they often betray me. So, I’m always on the defensive.
  • If I show strong emotional expressions, it might feed into stereotypes about my gender, race, or sexual orientation. So, I often opt for a more reserved demeanor

These scripts are not only influenced by our experiences but, regrettably, often dictate our current workplace interactions. Often, we’re unaware of their deep-rooted influence. They end up impacting how we experience work, leading to opportunities for healthier, more constructive interactions. A gentle suggestion from a boss can be misconstrued as harsh criticism due to our ingrained fear of reprimand. A misunderstanding with a coworker might escalate into a conflict fueled by our past experiences of betrayal.

The goal is to approach our professional lives free from the chains of these past narratives, allowing ourselves to react to workplace situations as they are, not through the skewed lens of previous experiences.

3.  Laura: With the insights from Burnt Out to Lit Up in mind, what does ‘success’ look like from your vantage point, particularly if we all work together to be more intentional with our approaches to leadership?

Daisy: Success, through the lens of Burnt Out to Lit Up, is about replenishing our energy and reigniting our inner spark to be the leaders we are meant to be. We can’t do this work alone. It’s about leveraging our unique strengths and experiences to foster a culture of empathy, understanding, and proactive leadership. True leadership success lies in our ability to be introspective, to care deeply for our well-being, and to manage with clarity, courage, and compassion. It’s about building environments where everyone can thrive, recognizing that the path there is continuous, intentional, and deeply personal.

Each of us brings our unique strengths and experiences to the table. By embracing the kind of manager we want to be, building shared understanding, and showing up for ourselves and our teams, we can transform how we lead, manage, and collaborate. 

It’s about facing what can be changed, taking intentional steps to improve, and showing up, however imperfectly. There are no silver bullets or shortcuts, but you must start somewhere.


  • Laura Cococcia

    Contributing Writer

    Laura Cococcia is a recognized thought leader on the evolution of work, with 20+ years of strategic communications and organizational development experience at respected global companies, including GE, Google, and American Express. Committed to advancing dialogue and action in this space, she actively contributes to forward-thinking professional and academic forums including the Aspen Institute, Cornell University and TED.  Additionally, Laura is an advisor to startup and venture technology companies who are building a better future of work, helping founders drive meaningful change through innovative and sustainable solutions. She has been a contributing writer for several publications, including Thrive Global, focusing on the technological, generational, and social shifts that impact how we work and live. Most recently, Laura was accepted as a Fulbright Specialist, which pairs highly qualified academics and professionals with host institutions abroad to share their expertise through short-term consulting assignments. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English from The College of the Holy Cross and a master’s degree in human resources from Cornell University.  Laura is based in New York City.