10 Jul “Leadership And Mental Well Being” By Martin Wright
The recent news of the suicide of Kate Spade a prominent Fashion designer and businesswoman, and in 2013 Ilya Zhitomirskiy, the cofounder of Diaspora, a ‘presumed’ Facebook rival sparks even more interest into Mental health issues especially concerning prominent leaders in business.
Kate’s friends were amazed because on the surface she seemed ok. Ilya had been told that his social media site was ‘a laughing stock’ and ‘a failure’. (one of the aims of Diaspora was that all members would own their own personal information). Was this a case of two innovative leaders who didn’t feel they could talk openly about how they felt? Was it that they didn’t want their investors, employees or customers knowing that they were struggling?
How many leaders can say ‘I know that I don’t have to prove myself, but I don’t know what else to do, have no one I can confide in’. Leaders often feel the pressure of putting on the appearance of not to needing support. Many neglect their own physical and mental wellbeing, they develop poor eating habits, don’t sleep well or long enough, or need a drink to unwind. Some feel pressured to put in extra long working weeks in order to show their commitment.
The work life balance idea used to be more often applied to women, now it is applicable to anyone. Many people have to work hard to juggle their home and work lives, trying to find that perfect balance is difficult.
As a leader, the challenge in getting relationships right is a difficult one. Do they distance themselves and not get involved because they have to make decisions that may affect individuals personally or can they get to know their staff on a personal level and not let it affect their ability to make challenging decisions.
How many of us can say that we regularly and genuinely ask how our leaders, employees, colleagues are, or ever tried to break down the barriers that we often put up in this ever changing world.
Maybe it’s time we did.
Authenticity in Leadership is about admitting that we may be struggling with their own demons and deal with negative labelling such as “weak” or “self absorbed”, and as a result they resist reaching out to others and creating a much needed support system.
Small changes can make a huge difference:
- Concentrate on building ‘work families’, or introduce buddy systems which can help awareness of how we and others feel. This will also help Leaders to make themselves approachable, rather than intimidating.
- Talk to teams and help them to understand how vital they are and how much they are appreciated.
- Most importantly work on being genuine (sometimes it takes practice)
The worst case scenario could be that they’ve had a bad day and you have to listen to their issues and you end up looking like someone who cares
The best case scenario could be that you might just reach someone before they hit breaking point.