How to be a Mental-Health-Aware Leader

Strong leadership stems from a leader’s ability to be aware of what their workers –– and their environment –– need to be successful. The tips outlined below on how to be a mental-health-aware leader can apply to any strong leadership in general.

General Tips:

  • Be aware of how people are doing: check-in regularly
    • Allowing a brief pause and space to check-in with each other makes people feel cared for and grants a transition from “life” to “work” or the task at-hand.
  • Set and agree on community norms together
    • A leader who emphasizes the importance of community norms is automatically making the environment more welcoming and accessible to everyone. The process of creating community norms can be simple, however, it’s important to make sure everyone in the environment or workspace is invited and included in contributing to the creation of the community norms. This will allow them to feel worthy and to feel heard.
    • Some examples of community norms can include:
      • Be present and listen to others during meetings.
      • Respond rather than react.
      • Try new ways of thinking and doing.
      • Do not be afraid to ask questions.
      • Respect others and their experiences.
  • Emphasize strong communication and allow time-off requests for mental health
    • A mental-health-aware leader will be understanding of people who need to take days off for their mental health. This is completely normal and healthy. In these situations, open and strong communication is essential in navigating how the person is feeling or what state they are in, how much time off they will need, and how they can be best supported in returning to their work environment and being held accountable for their work.
  • Have an understanding of basic mental health: fight stigma
    • Leaders who understand mental health and act against the stigma stand out in their ability to spread awareness in the workplace. Mental-health-aware leaders are able to make decisions based on a higher level of understanding of how mental health works and what strengths and hurdles arise among individuals who are directly impacted by mental health challenges.
    • Beyond this, it’s important to implement positive encouragement, rewards, and consequences within the work environment that focus on the individual’s self-improvement, rather than focusing on “punishment” which does not always establish a learning curve.

Overall, when employees feel seen, heard, understood, and cared about, they will feel more inclined to be committed and productive in any and every task at-hand under their leader. By following the tips outlined above, a mental-health-aware leader should be able to build positive working relationships with everyone they are working with, connecting with them and growing trust and rapport throughout their time together.

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