By: Injeel Moti, Founder & Managing Director Catch Communications

We have seen a whole lot of dialogue around mental wellbeing at work with employees and teams in recent years (rightly so), but the topic of a leaders’ mental health is seldom broached. 

No denying, being in a leadership role requires a certain amount of grit, you are always wearing the ‘find solutions’ hat and dealing with stressful situations, equating to an endless secretion of cortisol which can be incredibly tiresome and draining, leaving leaders with very little energy to lead on some days.   

Factors such as workplace changes after the Covid crisis, the current geopolitical situation, ongoing technological shifts, inflation and the cost of living all contribute to the difficulty for leaders to maintain a healthy work-life balance – especially as many leaders tend to take a ‘work hard, play hard’ approach.

Some of the most common mental health challenges faced by professionals in leadership roles in the region are stress, anxiety, burnout, and depression, yet leaders are reluctant to speak openly about their mental health, owing to the silent pressure of not appearing like someone that cannot handle what’s being thrown at them. Mental health support is still seen as a weakness, while there is a lot more awareness and conversation around it, the ground realities are still far from genuine empathy.

Throw in challenges of imposter syndrome and all the content one consumes on social media today. Living in a culture where we are constantly stimulated with wins and successes of people around, even having a decent amount of self-awareness and the ability to recognize pretence, it can and does put pressure as well influence behavioural change. 

If anything, leadership is a demanding role. One that requires resilience, empathy, and a sense of purpose.  Thatʼs why self-awareness among leaders is crucial not only to understand their strengths but also weaknesses and seek timely support and expert guidance, where necessary, while juggling the demands of running a company. 

Some might argue that it is the price of being a leader, but walking the leadership tightrope is a choice that one makes and with it come both pros and cons. 

Mental health awareness in itself is a leadership skill, as they say charity begins at home, an individual cannot promote a certain culture if they haven’t taken control of their own mental wellbeing. Before leaders can even begin to promote a company culture invested in mental health, they must first take an honest look at their own mental wellness.  As a leader, you cannot effectively lead if you are half empty, you cannot offer empathy to others if you cannot give it to yourself & therefore modelling the importance of investing in mental health and breaking stigmas must come first. 

A leader’s mental health, regardless of team / business size is crucial for several reasons, and its significance extends beyond just the well-being of the leader themselves. Everything from sound decision making to performance and productivity both for the team and the business overall are impacted directly by a leaders mental wellbeing. As devastating as this can be at a personal level, poor mental health in leaders is also complicated by the knock-on effects, which are damaging to both the business and its culture.

Taking charge of one’s mental wellbeing is a journey and not an overnight fix, what leaders can do is pull from their emotional intelligence, use self-awareness, and recognize the importance of investing in their mental health. Sustained leadership excellence requires consistent performance over time. Prioritizing mental health ensures that leaders can maintain their effectiveness, motivation, and commitment to the organization in the long run.

While behavioural expectations and how a leader should ‘show up’ are aplenty, there needs to be more room and empathy for all, ultimately we are all human beings navigating the maze of life and while some of us are burdened with more responsibility than others owing to where we are in professional lives, our struggles are more or less the same. Why not encourage healthy dialogue around that discourse and bring in comfort for people at all levels in organizations to speak freely?  That would be a good place to start…