Simone Biles hit headlines during the Olympics for taking a step back from competing to look after her mental health. She took a public stand to protect herself. In a statement she said:
We also have to focus on ourselves, because at the end of the day, we’re human, too…So, we have to protect our mind and our body, rather than just go out there and do what the world wants us to do.Simone Biles (USA Today)
Her actions have been predominantly met with positive reviews commending her bravery. To many, she showed true strength and a grounding in the importance of putting mental health first.
Whilst these actions are inspiring to some, are our leaders able to use the same priority on their own mental health?
Prioritise Mental Health
The key lesson to take from this is simple. Mental health is important. How are you meant to do your best work when you feel mentally drained?
This means not just thinking about your team and their mental health but they need to see you taking care of yourself. People will follow your lead. If they see that you are open (in whatever degree you are comfortable in doing so) to prioritising your mental health so that you can stay productive, they will follow that.
No one can pour from an empty cup (and that means the leader as well).
Can We Trust The Team?
We believe the answer should be yes. You employed your team (particularly your senior management team) because you know they are capable to do their role well. If you have hired the right people, your business will keep ticking efficiently for a period of time without you there.
The problem for a lot of leaders is they don’t feel the structure is in place to do that. If it isn’t, this should be a priority. No matter your role in the company, even if you are the sole CEO, there should always be a contingency.
Whilst we feel like we can predict the future, we can’t.
Showing Yourself To Be Human
It is always impressive when you meet someone who has a list of achievements. It is motivating to follow someone where success seems to follow them. It is inspirational to be a be led by a real person.
People follow leaders who not only inspire them to achieve more but also remind them that they are human. People want to relate to you in some way. They want to know that it is ok to not be ok.
Whilst Simone Biles felt comfortable to prioritise her mental health, we know it does not always seem possible to leaders. They walk a tightrope of getting the work done, being strong for the team and finding time to put yourself first. Most business books on leadership will tell you “Leaders Eat Last”. Is this still the case or are leaders able to prioritise their mental health?