Leaders set the pace and tone for the organizations that they lead in many different ways. Your example creates a culture. Our habits, patterns, and actions permeate throughout our group. Leaders who are in the habit of being generous will generally end up building exceptionally generous organizations. But leaders who work long hours themselves create a culture glorifying the work of brutally long hours. Leaders who are hard on their subordinates will often create middle managers who are even harder on their subordinates. Encouraging positive mental health isn’t the same as discouraging hard work. Instead, good mental health will increase the resilience of your workforce.
Because the leader’s example is magnified throughout the organization, managers must take the time to determine which of their habits and patterns they are passing on to their subordinates. Ultimately, leaders’ actions will become the company culture – or at least the group culture – whether intended or not. Therefore, it is essential to evaluate the type of culture you are creating by your example.
Good mental health is an often overlooked but extremely critical component of good leadership. Mental health is the chief cause of long term sickness, absence, and work incapacity. To create a better environment for employees, managers need to show a high level of commitment to favorable working conditions. Leaders who are stressed out, frazzled, and overwhelmed will often end up pouring out their frustrations on subordinates, who will, in turn, pour out their frustrations on their subordinates, or even worse, customers or clients. How the higher-ups treat their subordinates is eventually how customers and clients will end up being treated. Also, stressed-out leaders will incidentally create high-stress environments, which makes it difficult for employees and subordinates to do their best work.
The National Institute of Health showed that manager support was an essential factor in employees’ mental health. In that study, employees’ mental health was higher when the manager was supportive and encouraging. A less supportive, critical, and distant manager caused more mental health problems for employees. The study asked how often the employee’s supervisor:
“… shows that they appreciate the way I do my job.”
“… pays attention to my feelings and problems, and notices if I’m not feeling well.”
“… is considerate when managing team members.”
“… gives me advice on how to handle things if necessary.”
“… helps me with a certain task if necessary.”
“… would be someone I would speak to if I were experiencing workplace stress.”
“… is accessible and approachable to people in the team.”
“… involves me in decision-making.”
“… remains objective when an issue between staff members arise.”
Employees are more satisfied and productive when they are healthy and engaged. It’s essential that managers speak about mental health, create opportunities for employees to destress, and create a safe working environment. The most important thing is that leaders be an excellent example of mental health. Modeling a good example is more critical than platitudes. This means not sending emails after hours or during vacations.
Leaders are also called upon to make dozens, if not hundreds of decisions every day, some of which can impact the entire trajectory of a company. Being in a chronically stressed out, frazzled or overwhelmed state of mind is not a reasonable basis for excellent decision making. Leaders who take the time to care for their mental health and wellbeing place themselves in a much better position to make more precise decisions, even in the most high-pressure situations. Better, clearer decision making will almost always result in better outcomes, which will build a better, more reliable business.