Mental Health and Leadership

“Leadership is all about the people. It’s not about organisations. Its not about plans. Its not about strategies. Its all about people – motivating people to get the job done. You have to be people-centred” – Colin Powell.

Mental health management has become a very important factor in all our lives. And for those in leadership roles, you not only have to be on top of your mental health, but that of your team members as well.

If we are to overcome the obstacles this pandemic has brought, our focus should be on our most valued asset, what we at Algoa FM call our “champions” – our people.

Coping with mental health challenges (our own and those of our staff) has always been part of our lives, but it has been kept a well-hidden secret, like something that we are embarrassed to share.

And as leaders, we were thrown in the deep end when Covid placed a spotlight on mental health and forced us to deal with the elephant in the room.

While mental illness has always been with us, international research collated by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) has found that the prevalence of anxiety and depression has doubled in many countries around the world.

One of the first misconceptions that we need to overcome is that mental illness is a sign of some sort of weakness. It is an illness, much like any other, and we need to educate ourselves about it and understand it.

Here are some of my thoughts

  •  Educate yourself about mental health through reading articles and attending webinars Share your insights with your team – knowledge is power.
  • Have an open-door policy and listen when staff come to you with challenges
  • When team members reach out, it is important to listen and then act
  •  Be aware that team members will almost certainly have a member of their immediate family or social circle suffering from mental challenges – this will have a knock-on effect

Many will try to keep their challenges to themselves. Here are some signs too look out for:

  • Fatigue, changes in behaviour, being more aggressive in responses, poor work performance or throwing oneself completely into workday beyond 8-5, changes in appearances, changes in mood.
  • Warning bells should ring if you cannot get hold of staff working remotely. Many times, if you are not in a good space answering a phone or responding to a message or an email can be too much.
  • Reach out to staff. Have open, non-threatening conversations with your staff and allow them to express themselves
  • Reach out to your HR Department for guidance and assistance.

I find that sharing my personal experience with mental health and the challenges I am facing through this pandemic helps.

And I always find that it helps when people understand that they are not alone, and that others are also facing similar challenges. You may be surprised how much support and hope an open conversation can give your staff members.

One must never forget that leaders are under at least as much strain as their team members – and often more. We need to care for our own mental health.

Looking after yourself mentally is as important as the skills and knowledge that have seen you move into a leadership role.

Leaders set the example, and your team will cope better with the mental challenges of a Covid world if you show the way.

Few of us can do it alone – as part of the leadership team, we need to be there for each other.

Know that there will be times when you feel despondent and feel like you can’t cope any more.

During these times we need to be able to support and lean on each other.

Be patient and understanding, when someone in a meeting has a reaction that was maybe out of the norm, step back… don’t take it personally and hear the person out.

Tomorrow, it could be you who is struggling to control stress.

These are challenging times for all of us.

 About the author: Celeste Thomas – Algoa FM Human Resources Manager 

Celeste joined Algoa FM in 2013. Under her guidance the Human Resources department has established itself as a strategic arm of the business, which is integrated into all the media house’s operations. 

She also sits on the Board of Propella, a Gqebera-based business incubator geared to advance IT and manufacturing businesses.

“The world we live in is ever changing and as such I am always learning new things. My knowledge of the media industry has grown so much, and I am loving every minute of it. If you are innovative, creative, forward thinking and have the ability to adapt to different situations and still have a lot of fun while doing it…… then media is the industry for you,” says Celeste.

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