3 ways leaders can manage their wellbeing while supporting teams

While the relationship between wellbeing and performance of employees is often discussed, the mental health of leaders can quickly take a back seat in the face of challenging times. 

New data has revealed that almost 70% of people said that the person who has the biggest impact on their mental health is their manager. This reinforces just how important it is for senior leaders to prioritise their own mental health and wellbeing so they are the best version of themselves to support their team. 

While leadership roles come with added responsibilities, leaders should not feel that they must choose between their wellbeing or their work. In addition to that added pressure that comes with leadership, organisational wellbeing frameworks often fail to address those at a senior level in particular, leaving leaders' mental health considered not a priority. 

Here are 3 tips for helping leaders manage their wellbeing while supporting their teams: 

Fight imposter syndrome and challenge self limiting beliefs

Self-limiting beliefs can often cloud our perception of ourselves, causing doubt in our minds about our ability to do our jobs. We aren't born with self-limiting beliefs. These develop over time based on our experiences and our psyche’s response to certain events. Over time that negative voice becomes very familiar, and even almost comfortable. It can be easy to lean into this, but we must not accept it. 

When we are managing others, it can be easy to doubt our abilities, leading to anxiety and stress. As a leader, if you are feeling like this, it is important to catch these thoughts at that moment. Investigate them. Has something made you feel this way before? Are these thoughts based on a past experience? Once we start investigating we can begin challenging how they are preventing your ability to cope

Challenging these beliefs and thoughts as they arise will help leaders assert their confidence and their ability to handle any situation. This, in turn, will inspire the same behaviours in others. 

Don’t try to ‘fake it till you make it’ 

Often it can be hard to admit we are struggling, feeling anxious or insecure, particularly when we are in charge. It can be tempting to try to ‘fake it till you make it’ to convince those around us we feel confident and optimistic. This toxic positivity stops us from admitting we are struggling, and taking steps to address our issues. 

Making ourselves feel happier or more confident when we are struggling is not about affirmations or willpower; we need to change at a neurological and cellular level. We can only do this through accepting what we are feeling and then addressing these feelings appropriately.

If you are feeling under a huge amount of pressure and are overwhelmed with responsibilities, pretending to be coping with it is not helpful for you, your colleagues or team. Being honest and seeking support from peers, or other members of the leadership team is important. Looking after yourself is a fundamental part of being a good leader. Removing the shame we feel as leaders from admitting your real feelings will help stop any negative thoughts spiralling out of control. False positivity has the danger of isolating you.  

Shift your focus 

Many of us spend way too much time worrying about what we don’t want to happen, rather than focusing on what we do want. 

On average, humans have around 64,800 thoughts a day. It is estimated that around 80% of these are negative. This means that most of the time we are focusing our energy on worrying about what we don’t want, which has a huge impact on the reality that shows up in our life. 

Negative thoughts are powerful because our neurology cannot tell the difference between a real experience and a vividly imagined one – so our brain reacts to both just the same. When we spend time worrying and creating imagined future scenarios our emotional response feels real because our brain can’t tell that it’s not real. For example, spending the weekend worrying about leading a meeting on Monday and imagining people’s negative responses can allow the brain to create a story that is not real, but that you believe. 

Instead, try to focus on using this same strategy of imagined scenarios that make you feel good about yourself and excited for the future. Don’t waste time worrying about potential negative outcomes, but instead focus on the outcome you want and how good this will feel. Use this to motivate you and empower you to feel more confident and excited for the potential outcomes of your day. 

Final words

As a leader, prioritising your own wellbeing is not only crucial for you, but for those you are managing. It is important to be the best version of yourself in order to show up for those who need you. These steps will ensure your mental health is looked after and you are coming from a positive mindset for your team, allowing you to fulfil your role as a senior leader to your full potential.