Here’s why leaders need to care about mental health

mental health

(Sam Manns, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Sharmishta Sivaramakrishnan, Community Specialist, Young Global Leaders – Asia, World Economic Forum Geneva & Peter Varnum, Project Lead, Global Health and Healthcare, World Economic Forum


‘Mental health’ can mean a lot of things, depending on who you talk to. Many people confuse mental health – which is a positive state, like physical health – with mental ill-health. Mental ill-health is the anxiety that rears its head when an estranged son pictures a conversation with his mother. It’s the depression that settles on a college student facing a fractured world and a new set of life decisions. It’s the diagnosis of bipolar that reshapes a young adult’s self-perception.

But mental health, according to the World Health Organization, is “the state of wellbeing in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community”.

The trouble is, the so-called ‘normal’ stresses of life are getting pretty stressful. While emerging technologies present the leaders of today with increased opportunities for personal and workplace development, our increasing reliance on tools like smartphones can also lead to loneliness, anxiety and depression. Our fast-paced world, when exacerbated by political polarization, climate change, and mistrust in institutions, presents a challenge for all future generations.

This moment calls for a new type of leadership: one in which leaders show strength through embracing vulnerability, and exercise wisdom through creating spaces in which their teams can be psychologically safe, innovative and open about their mental health – if they so choose.

So how do leaders showcase that strength and cultivate that wisdom? We asked four individuals from the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders (YGL), whose answers point to three crucial elements of sound leadership in the face of today’s challenges.

Matthew Guilford, chief growth officer of Telenor Health and a member of the YGL class of 2019, has faced typical start-up challenges on top of fighting the stigma that can accompany conversations on mental health. Here, he comments on the importance of every leader to be kind to him or herself:

It’s a bit ironic that leaders working on big challenges around human development – whether creating livelihoods or improving areas like education and health – can struggle with stress, low self-esteem, and other issues. It can be easy to feel like you are not doing justice to the cause and the opportunity to make an impact, that even 70 hours a week is not hard enough, that you’re failing relative to the sheer magnitude of the challenge. In those moments, I think human-centered leadership is about trying to be emotionally generous to yourself, and even more so to your team. Sometimes the hardest parts of human development begin at home.

— Matthew Guilford

Another YGL from the class of 2019, Dr. Anjhula Mya Singh Bais, is an international psychologist trauma specialist and human rights policy developer. She comments on the importance of human-centered leaders to retain empathy in a world that can sometimes be profit-driven or cynical:

We cannot afford to think of our leadership as X at the expense of Y – for example, the quantitative bottom line at the expense of mutual compassion.

— Anjhula Mya Singh Bais

So what, according to our YGL, are the three critical elements for human-centred leaders?

1. Culture: Leaders should create cultures that destigmatize mental health issues and promote an understanding of individuals’ situations.

Billy Mawasha, a YGL from the class of 2017, is an established corporate leader across Africa.

My approach is really focused on self-management, creating awareness, peer assistance and care for others. It is important is to create an environment in which mental health issues are seen to be normal and not stigmatised. This can be achieved by sharing our own vulnerabilities as leaders, too. I openly share the vulnerabilities I face and how I cope with them with my colleagues. I think today’s leaders should prioritize the destigmatization of mental health and the provision of affordable support services. This can be achieved through open and honest engagements and by providing resources for mental health.

— Billy Mawasha

In environments where mental health is misunderstood or stigmatized, leaders can play a particularly important role in normalizing the discussion. We have tried to contribute to this in our own small way in Bangladesh, through our use of social media, SMS, and other health-related communications channels.

— Matthew Guilford

2. Authenticity: People follow leaders who are authentic.

Research demonstrates that we do not listen to what someone says but rather what they do and who they are. Each individual is gifted with an authenticity radar. When we meet ourselves first with all that that entails, we then can meet the world with our own unique abilities.

— Anjhula Mya Singh Bais

Neha Kirpal, a YGL from the class of 2015, is an Indian entrepreneur working to inspire a better system of mental health.

To be an effective human-centered leader we have to demonstrate care for our planet, our communities, our businesses and organizations, our colleagues, friends and family and, critically, ourselves. We have to demonstrate that we understand and put into practice empathetic ways of working and living. We need to demonstrate the emotional strength and maturity to acknowledge others’ expertise and knowledge and our own ability to listen and learn from it. And our social responsibility needs to be demonstrably part of who we are, not simply some presentational gimmick.

— Neha Kirpal

3. Self-reflection and self-care: Effective leaders know and take care of themselves.

Much like we have preventative health checkups, every leader should proactively seek out a form of self-inquiry via meditation, yoga, therapy, energy modalities or better yet, in combination. [Many of today’s issues] have resulted fundamentally from an inability to sit in silence by one’s self with self-inquiry and observation.

— Anjhula Mya Singh Bais

Mental health belongs to all, and investing in it is as important as physical health. Yet many leaders overlook this, and in failing to give ou own mental health its due, we tend to undermine its importance to our people as well. Tuning in and feeding our own positive mental reserves can go a long way towards creating empathetic, human-centered organizations that respect every individuals’ needs and circumstances.

— Neha Kirpal

Of course, these buckets are not mutually exclusive. In acknowledging the overlap between them, Neha puts it perfectly:

NK: Leaders need to be open and aware of the importance of taking care of one’s mental health, and should make it an organizational priority as well as something they publicly champion at corporate forums and in community settings. This goes a long way in the global movement towards true inclusion, equal human rights for all and the sustainable evolution of their organizations as well as their people.

— Neha Kirpal

 

From social entrepreneurship to psychology, from corporate finance to health technology, these individuals are pioneering what human-centered leadership means to them and their colleagues. Through recognizing the importance of mental health, authentically representing themselves, and reflecting on their own leadership styles, they are indeed realizing their potential, coping with normal stresses of life, working productively and fruitfully, and contributing to their organizations and communities.

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

the European Sting Milestones

Featured Stings

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Vaccination: European Commission and World Health Organization join forces to promote the benefits of vaccines

UNESCO lists wrestling, reggae and raiho-shin rituals as global treasures to be preserved

European Semester Autumn Package: Bolstering inclusive and sustainable growth

Bahamas: ‘Clock is ticking’ to help those who lost everything in Hurricane Dorian, says UN

Helping small businesses fight cybercrime benefits the global ecosystem

Estonia is making public transport free

IMF: World cup and productivity

How to create responsible supply chains in the age of globalization 4.0

EU members commit to build an integrated gas market and finally cut dependency on Russia

Is there a chance for the West to win the war on terror?

With a premature death every five seconds, air pollution is violation of human rights, says UN expert

EDRi @ European Business Summit 2014: Digital Citizenship in Brussels – the case of Net Neutrality

We dream of being a part of the European family, says FYROM PM

French Prime Minister passes Stability Program and takes his ‘café’ in Brussels this June

First 17 “European Universities” selected: a major step towards building a European Education Area

Is friendly public transport the answer to the loneliness epidemic?

Germany is turning its old mines into tourist hotspots

COP21 Paris: The Final Agreement Adopted-full text

Viktor Orbán, Hungarian Prime Minister, at a 2015 event in Brussels, Berlaymont. (Copyright: European Union , 2015; Source: EC - Audiovisual Service; Photo: Lieven Creemers)

Hungary and Ireland build front to say no to EU tax harmonisation plan

Rise in violent conflict shows prevention ‘more necessary than ever’: UN chief

Britain declares trade war on mainland Europe

Have central banks missed the exit train?

Charlotte in Ghana

UN human rights chief denounces grave ‘assaults’ on fundamental rights of Palestinian people

Trump after marginalizing G20 attacks Europe and China where it hurts, brandishes currency war

The Tears of lovely Memories

Trying to cure bank cancer with analgesics

Gender minority and health sector: promoting mental health with better medical education

‘Historic moment’ for people on the move, as UN agrees first-ever Global Compact on migration

The fatal consequences of troika’s blind austerity policy

Mozambique’s Beira city ‘returning to life’, elsewhere UN teams assess damage, deliver assistance

EU rewards organisations that make eco-innovation pay

A new kind of company is revolutionising Africa’s gig economy

Why do US presidential elections last so long? And 4 other things you need to know

Tuesday’s Daily Brief: Guterres calls for restraint in Venezuela, Jazz Day, the importance of breastfeeding, and updates from Libya, Iran and Mozambique

Superconductors: the miracle materials powering an energy revolution

Car rentals: EU action leads to clearer and more transparent pricing

Women’s leadership ‘critical’ to future of Niger

Trump enrages the Europeans and isolates the US in G7

EU to fail 2050 Green targets due to lack of European citizens’ engagement

Greece to stay in the euro area but the cost to its people remains elusive

More than just a phone: mobile’s impact on sustainable development

Taking fast road to ‘e-mobility’ central to a sustainable future: COP24

JADE Spring Meeting 2015- Europe’s Junior Entrepreneurs together for 4 days of networking, workshops and forward thinking

Capitalism’s greatest weakness? It confuses price with value

Syria: Why did the US now take the Russian offer for a truce? What next?

Does the “climate change” require ombudsman services for environment?

Will the Greek economy ever come back to growth?

Will technology connect or divide us? The challenge for leaders in Globalization 4.0

A young person’s perspective on the Paris and Beirut attacks and aftermath

UN rights chief denounces Burundi for ‘belligerent and defamatory’ attack on inquiry team

An open letter from business to world leaders: “Be ambitious, and together we can address climate change”

Artificial Intelligence has a gender problem. Here’s what to do about it

End ‘political opportunism’ that’s letting hate speech flourish, urges top UN genocide official

Governments can fight corruption by joining the digital payment revolution

MEPs agree on future regional and cohesion funding

FROM THE FIELD: Hardy seeds bear fruit to protect Colombia’s environment

Rule of law in Hungary: Parliament calls on the EU to act

Hundreds of thousands of lives still lost each year to small arms, UN conference hears

Poverty and social exclusion skyrocket with austerity

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s