As 2023 draws to a close, I find myself reflecting on a journey that was as unexpected as it was transformative. This was the year I confronted my own mental health head-on, which is a journey of challenges, profound learning, and growth. As a mother of two, business leader, entrepreneur, and community builder, I’ve always been driven to catalyze human thriving and positive change. Yet, 2023 taught me that true leadership often begins with being present with our own mental health.
2023’s biggest challenge was “Me vs. Me.” This year I became a CEO, the path to my becoming has been both a mindset and behavioral shift. During this period of growth I experienced professional successes and fulfillment I didn’t think were possible. I made bold decisions, backed by the power of data, experience, and intuition. I fortified my team, and flexed my leadership to meet them where they are, while challenging them to work towards where they want to be. I conquered some of my biggest leadership fears and insecurities.
During one of our team meetings I shared, “I’m having a hard time with my mental health.” This was one of the scariest and most vulnerable moments I’ve experienced as a leader. Admitting to going through a tough mental health period is never easy, especially for leaders who are accustomed to being pillars of strength. However, in that moment, I learned that transparency with my own vulnerabilities empowered my team. In the moments I wasn’t feeling strong, the power of the collective strengthened me, and it strengthened our mission.
Even the most resilient leaders have limits and acknowledging our mental health isn’t a sign of weakness, but of profound strength.
Throughout my career my go to was to push through – bulldozing through stress, fatigue, anxiety, and fear. However, 2023 was relentless in challenging me to confront my own mental health in a very real and honest way. As a leader who boldly preaches authenticity, transparency, and vulnerability; pushing through was hypocritical. Additionally, pushing through was an exercise in avoidance, which prevented me from tapping into the power of mastering my emotions and galvanizing the power of collaboration and community.
Mental fortitude is often misconceived as the ability to endure hardships without faltering. This year, I learned that it’s much more. It’s about self-awareness, compassion, and the courage to seek help when needed. It’s about understanding that mental health is as important as physical health. I’ve learned that my mental health directly correlates to the health of the organization I’m leading.
It’s impossible to separate mental health from leadership, it influences everything from day-to-day operations and team dynamics to long-term strategic planning, financial success, and organizational resilience.
To my fellow leaders, entrepreneurs, and change-makers, I encourage you to be present with your own mental health. The strength of our organizations, communities, and families depends not just on our business acumen or strategic vision, but on our mental and emotional well-being. As we approach a new year, let’s commit to making mental health a priority, both for ourselves and for those we lead.
Let’s redefine leadership. Be the leader who is not just strategic and visionary, but also emotionally intelligent, empathetic, and mentally resilient. Together, we can build a business culture where the health of our minds is as important as the health of our businesses and communities. Here’s to a 2024 of mindful leadership, filled with awareness of our mental health status, joy, fulfillment, and success.