Crazy Good Leadership
We could also call this post “Come Out at Work: With Depression, Part 2″ as we uncover more about the positive attributes of mental illness at work, now as it relates to leadership.
Psychiatrist Nassir Ghaemi, author of A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links between Leadership and Mental Illness (Penguin Press, 2011), wrote recently in The Wall Street Journal about the benefits of mental illness, namely depression, for people in leadership roles. He writes:
In business, for instance, the sanest of CEOs may be just right during prosperous times, allowing the past to predict the future. But during a period of change, a different kind of leader—quirky, odd, even mentally ill—is more likely to see business opportunities that others cannot imagine.
Ghaemi sheds light on the nature of depression, in particular, relative to leadership greatness:
Depression has been found to correlate with high degrees of empathy, a greater concern for how others think and feel. In one study, severely depressed patients had much higher scores on the standard measures of empathy than did a control group of college students; the more depressed they were, the higher their empathy scores… Depression seems to prepare the mind for a long-term habit of appreciating others’ point of view.
He then looks at the example of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who attempted suicide in his adolescence and experienced severe depressive episodes as an adult:
Nonviolent resistance, King believed, was psychiatry for the American soul; it was a psychological cure for racism, not just a political program. And the active ingredient was empathy.
As a society, we can help ourselves by removing the taboo associated with having depression. And as an individual, if you’re in a leadership role and live with depression, it’s sounding increasingly wise not to spend energy hiding it. Rather, determine how to overcome any embarrassment about being depressed so you can leverage what’s natural in you and become a better leader.
What gets in your way of coming out as depressed at work?
Date: September 29, 2011