Health and safety

The Decline of Mental Health in Leadership

October 29, 2021

The mental health and well-being of those in leadership roles rarely get much attention. There is a common misconception that under stress, managers and other leaders should just push through whatever struggles they’re experiencing, leave their problems at the door, and put on a happy face for the sake of their employees.

In general, employee mental health and well-being have become a priority for organizations. However, since the beginning of the pandemic, leaders have taken on additional responsibilities for supporting their staff through widespread mental health struggles. Many leaders have been shouldering the stress felt by employees, so what about their mental health concerns?

Why are leaders more prone to burnout than ever?

"Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown."

- William Shakespeare, Henry IV Part 2

Helping employees navigate increased stress, anxiety, and burnout, on top of their regular management duties—in addition to new responsibilities resulting from changes during the pandemic—has led to a significant decline in mental health among leaders. A recent survey conducted this year by Deloitte found that senior leaders have been experiencing extraordinary strain. One of the highest reported stressors was the desire to provide adequate support for the well-being of staff.

Consequences of unaddressed mental health issues in the leadership

While employees have received support to improve their mental health during the pandemic, those in management positions may overcommit due to stigma or fear of negative consequences, such as appearing like they cannot handle their role. Unfortunately, while unhealthy for the leader, overcommitment is easily misinterpreted as having a strong work ethic, creating perverse incentives to continue the unhealthful behaviour.

Working under stress and pressure might help with immediate tasks, but it is unsustainable long-term. Managers will eventually enter a decline. Extreme, long-term strain poses a significant risk to one’s own personal well-being and resilience, as well as to the business. Unaddressed mental health issues and visible signs of stress like outbursts, exhaustion, and mood swings can create additional burnout at the employee level, increasing the risk of employees leaving their jobs. Organizations are at significant risk for a loss of talent, as the Deloitte survey found that over half of senior talent is considering leaving their roles, whether resigning (23 percent), downshifting (16 percent), retiring (15 percent), or taking a leave of absence (13 percent).

Guide to improving mental health for leaders

Leadership style has a significant influence on the overall mental wellness in the workplace. Leaders and managers experiencing burnout are less likely to function at their highest productivity level, and as a result, may lack in providing support to their employees. If unchecked, this can worsen into a stressful work environment and less engaged employees. That is why it is essential that companies take adequate measures to build resilience in their leaders and managers.

Resilience is the ability to overcome obstacles and bounce back from challenges, but leaders cannot lead if they are suffering. Our team of HR experts strives to diagnose all avenues of business that may require additional support and provide resourceful solutions for you to efficiently tackle them. Our Guide to Improving Mental Health for Leaders offers critical information and tailored resources that help reduce burnout and build resilience in leaders. Here are the key factors that help improve leadership mental health outlined in the guide:

  1. Creating awareness and reducing stigma;
  2. Identifying the warning signs;
  3. Prioritizing and delegating workload; and
  4. Wellness training.

Get more actionable steps on each of these factors from our Guide to Improving Mental Health for Leaders. We’ll provide detailed insights and resources to help reduce burnout and improve resilience in your leadership team.

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