Research shows that one characteristic shared by all outstanding leaders is the ability to self-reflect and self-manage. While that is a critical skill for managers, they should also work to equip the people under them to develop it too.
To date, the conversation around mental health has often been supported and driven by senior leaders sharing personal experiences of mental ill health. While no doubt powerful, all too often they lead to others following suit without the appropriate structures or support in place for individuals. Leaders should seek to go beyond their personal stories in a couple of ways:
1 – It’s important that managers are encouraged to be honest and recognise that in certain situations they could contribute to mental ill health. “The wheel of human needs” was highlighted by Mark and discussed by the panel in relation to their belief that people need to have or build resilience – and they need to take responsibility for their actions. Ultimately, every one of us has five fundamental human needs:
If these can be understood and accepted, a positive working environment can be built around them. This could, in many cases, lead to the prevention of traumatic work situations and a reduction in mental health issues.
2 – The panel agreed that neither honesty nor displaying vulnerability in positions of power are commonplace, and that the role of business leaders in instilling the right organisational values to promote mental health and wellbeing is absolutely crucial. It was felt that organisations should now be appointing and using leaders who can understand human behaviour, and are able to interpret the behaviours of the people they manage.
Imposter syndrome is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubt their accomplishments and has a persistent, internalised fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud’. Indeed, demonstrating vulnerability is crucial for role models and leaders: imposter syndrome can affect even the most powerful individuals and drive poor organisational culture from the top.
It can be daunting to admit as much in the company of your colleagues and in view of investors or shareholders; leaders who display vulnerability can drive real change in the DNA of an organisation.
Once again, the differences between younger employees and those with longer tenure was highlighted by Jim. The younger generation can be particularly willing to give honest feedback at all organisational levels and that can be uncomfortable, but transformative.