Whether they voice it or think it, every leader regularly wonders: am I leading well? If you’re in any kind of leadership role at work, at church, or in an organization, you probably wonder how well you’re doing. Sadly, there aren’t many objective grading or evaluation systems, and if you ask the people you’re leading, they may not give you completely candid feedback.

It’s often been said that leadership is a lonely place, and it truly can be. But no matter what you lead or what kind of leader you are, the best way to overcome loneliness and be able to identify how well you’re leading is to develop a solid understanding of your emotional and mental health.

Before you tune us out, please know that research shows that personal understanding and insight can dramatically improve your skills as a leader, but even more important, it will allow you to enhance the skills and satisfaction of those you want. As a leader, you’ll be confronted with a variety of situations, and how you respond to those situations sets the tone for your leadership and the culture of your organization. If a difficult situation makes you visibly unnerved, a frustrating moment results in harsh responses, or a confusing moment leaves you procrastinating, the people you lead will pick up on that, and you’ll likely see similar behavior on their part. Leaders set cultural tone, and when the leaders gets better, the whole organization does too.

Paying attention to your own emotional and mental health and acting accordingly creates a role model for the people you lead. When you prioritize your mental and emotional well-being by taking time off, modeling rest and restorative time, exercising your body, getting healthy amounts of sleep, and similar strategies, you’re in effect giving others permission to do the same. Stay home when you’re not feeling well, and your team won’t feel pressured to come to work and spread the latest flu bug. If they see you balancing your work and home life, they’ll do the same – and trust us, productivity will increase.

It’s easy to forget that you’re constantly educating the people you lead. They may not admit it, but they’re looking to you for guidance – whether in words or actions and your interactions with them will set the tone for their interactions with others.

The better you understand your own emotional and mental health, the better you’ll be at recognizing the needs of those you lead. Becoming attuned to signs of worry, despair, anxiety, and other emotional (and sometimes physical) responses allows you to respond appropriately. If you see someone who’s troubled, you can reach out to them and let them know your see and hear them. You may be able to guide them to help or make adjustments to mitigate the issues they’re experiencing, showing them you value them as a person, not just a producer.

Having a deeper understanding of emotional and mental health is critical to understanding who the people you lead really are and what motivates them. Showing an interest in their personal lives is more than simply being polite. It tells them you care at a deeper level and people work with people, not for organizations.

If you don’t already have a network of peers with whom you can candidly discuss leadership issues, why not attend one of our free leader roundtable sessions? They provide an opportunity for you and other leaders to have an open conversation about the challenges of being a leader, and to get advice from people who have dealt with similar issues. You’ll find more information about our upcoming roundtables here.

Here’s a quick podcast on excessive working and mental health.

If you want to hear more on this topic or learn about our EAP options, contact us today.

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