Mental Health Awareness in the workplace

OK, so great leaders lead and don’t manage.    About halfway through my career the term ‘leader’ became the hot buzz word in management and companies.    They lead but ‘example’, pass the credit to the team for success and accept personal criticism for team failures.   Often protecting the team from the slings and arrows coming from ‘above’.   Frequently, it’s the ‘leader’ that loses his or her job first when the pressure for saving rises. Volumes of books were written on the differences between managers and leaders.

So, here’s a thought, as we end Mental Health Awareness week.  I have worked for approximately 30 managers / leaders in my career.    The best, the top 10% were those who understood and supported, even if they may not have known it, the mental health of their teams.

If I broke my leg, however much you shouted at me, I couldn’t run any faster.   So, why do some managers abuse and terrorise team members thinking it will make them work harder?

During my career I have rarely physically resembled my line manager, being 6’2” makes this hard.  So why do leaders think their teams will behave the same as they do or have the same robust mental framework.

I always consider the managers / leaders that influenced my career were my immediate boss and my bosses’ boss.    Many a career have been carved out satisfying their often illogical, ill-informed or downright dangerous strategies.   Some of the stories, I guess, we could all tell about our ‘superiors’ would probably make for an amusing book along the lines of The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin.

As I reflect on who ‘got the most out of me’, who ‘developed me’ the best or who was an ‘inspirational business leader’ I have been fortunate to work with some of the best and also unfortunate to work with some of the worst leaders possible.

However, the best days, months, years were spent with high performing business leaders who understood the true meaning of ‘individuals’ and worked with an understanding of their mental fragility.

The last two years has seen a massive shift in ‘mental health awareness’.  We are delighted the princes have taken a lead role in this vital initiative.   There is so much more to do, still too many old fashioned ‘alpha male’ views that people will just snap out of it.  My perception is that those in their teens and twenties are much more likely to talk about mental health than those in their fifties and sixties.   Hopefully in ten years’ time more enlightened leaders will be in positions of authority to really drive this agenda home.

Until then, lets keep talking about it, we all have a mental health as well as a physical health.

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