Leadership begins from leading your own life and making it better. It’s hard to be a good leader of others when your life is affected by depression and burnout. First, you need to manage your things well in everyday life to be an example for others.
Daniel Färnstrand is an executive coach in communication and a keynote speaker. He has gone through different careers from acting on the theatre stage to managing backstages for the biggest performers in Sweden, to being responsible for successful day-to-day operations of a fringe theatre. Today Daniel is a coach and he’s on the stage again, but now with learning material instead of entertainment.
He has been through clinical depression twice and lived with anxiety for over a decade. And he shares how it is to be a high performer with this luggage.
Leadership is about practicing what we preach and setting a good example. So we have to be open about our shortcomings. What is the better way to lead by example than using personal experience? We all have personal experiences of depression, either by going through it ourselves or seeing someone close to us suffer from it. For Daniel, it began with stress which led to anxiety, depression, and burnout. He never talked about this in public before and thinks now is the right time to get on this topic. He has been through clinical depression twice and lived with anxiety for over a decade. And he shares how it is to be a high performer with this luggage.
There’s an underlying dysfunctional assumption that we make ourselves more vulnerable by opening up about our personal issues. We think people will use it against us and attack us. From Daniel’s experience, sharing his problems with others didn’t make him weaker, on the contrary, he was viewed as a stronger person.
Burnout is a massive asset if we can learn from it and use it to develop ourselves and help others. This is what leadership’s about – developing people and practices. For Daniel, his first burnout was in 2005 when he worked in a bureau. One morning he had a business call and instead of talking straight began to stutter, he couldn’t get the words from his mouth. The month before this incident he was working very hard, waking up at 5 in the morning and pushing himself to the limit every day. This led to clinical anxiety. He describes it as an unbearable feeling of suffering that starts the minute you wake up in the morning and continues until you finally go off to sleep in the evening. It’s like wanting to crawl out from your skin. He also compared it with losing a loved one without any death involved, the feeling of constant sorrow. Later Daniel understood that he wasn’t susceptible to the warning signs. One of which was looking at the pile of dirty dishes in the kitchen and realizing that he couldn’t handle it.
Daniel started seriously working on himself in 2014 when he was expecting a child. He had a new job, went to a therapist, and began to change his coping mechanisms that have by then become dysfunctional. He had to change the patterns of behavior.
For Daniel, the worst thing you can say to a person with depression is “get your stuff together”. It’s disrespectful because if that was the case, the person would easily manage it. There are no quick fixes. Depression begins not because you’re lazy and you don’t care. Usually, it happens to people who care a lot, who are ambitious and hardworking. And it’s not something you can handle alone. You need to ask for help and to talk about it.
Depression is an illness that can kill and that’s why we need to take it seriously. When it comes to leadership of ourselves or being a leader in organizations or society we have to start talking about it, sharing the stories, and discussing how we can handle it. It’s a highly relevant theme for everybody.
If you want to help someone who is suffering from depression or anxiety think about how would you like other people to support you? Start with questions like “How are you? How can I help? Can we talk about it?”. Show that person that you are here and you care. The worse you can do is be quiet and ignore it, do nothing.
The main point of leadership is trying to be a good example. If you want to learn more about this topic, listen to the whole episode of the Genius Leadership podcast with Daniel here.
Stay tuned and be genius!