Mental Health and Leadership: The Leader’s Guide to Talking About Their Personal Voldemort
He who shall not be named

Leaders, we know that talking about your own mental health can be awkward. It was decided a while ago to use code words to help leaders talk about their mental health without really mentioning the words.

The Leader’s Guide for Talking About their Mental Health without Ever Having to Use the Words Mental Health.

  • Wherever possible, we use Geek-Speak rather than real words. We talk about economic principles, fiscal outlook, year to year comparisons and opportunities.
  • If we have to, we use business words rather than feeling words: stress, change weariness, sick time and pressure are more fun to talk about than crying, curling up a ball, screaming, or the voices inside of our heads.
  • We talk about opportunities and obstacles. These are code words for power, stress, anxiety, pain and failure.
  • We use triangulation and projection. We talk about your Mental Health instead of my Mental Health.
  • We avoid. If we have to talk, we will talk about how busy we are rather than how we feel.
  • We create phrases that mean different things to different people: Self Management, Emotional Management, Energy Management, Life Management or Word Management. We know that “management” is a fuzzy word that can mean anything from the people who lead to what’s going on our heads. It’s up to you to figure out what we mean.
  • We become task focused. We talk a lot about things that need to be fixed because we can do something about that.
  • We become passive aggressive. We break things so we can fix them. We drink a lot, eat a lot and we send memos.
  • We try to accomplish things. We initiate systems change so that we have something to do. We change something because being busy is better than slowing down and thinking about how we are doing.
  • We hold more meetings when really we want to say to someone, “Hold me.”
  • We avoid people who put the Suck in Success (this is brilliant, but I must give credit to W. Albert Jameson, IV who writes on his blog at

If you like this, you may want to see my recent article, The Leader’s Mental Health: The Degree from the University of Suffering They Will Never Tell You About.

I need your help. I am writing a series of articles on the topic of how leadership affects the leader. I appreciate any feedback or comments on the two questions below. This will contribute to my thinking and my future content. If you respond to my post and prefer that your comment remains private just indicate that in your comment.

  • As a leader, how has your own personal experience with depression, anxiety or other areas of emotional health affected you?
  • Who do you go to when you face struggles with your own mental and emotional experience? 

Keep it Real

One thought on “Mental Health and Leadership: The Leader’s Guide to Talking About Their Personal Voldemort

  1. I just have a meltdown and cry and sob – the next day I’m fine. Do you think I am dealing with leadership the right way?


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