Why Are More & More CEOs Seeking Therapy?

By James Mills, Associate Partner, Lighthouse International

When we think of CEOs, qualities like 'strong', 'powerful' and 'wealthy' may come to our mind. We may well see the role rather than the person behind the role. However a study by the Harvard Medical School found that around 96% of senior leaders feel burned out ... and a third feel this burnout is extreme! What this means is that more CEOs are seeking therapy. This article shares why it is that someone with no experience of running an organisation employing thousands of people can help someone who is.

CEOs Are Human Beings Who Also Face Human Challenges! 

This may seem like an obvious statement, but when we get lost in job titles it can be so easy to forget that behind every CEO role is a living, breathing human being with their own set of hopes, fears, insecurities and beliefs. Here are a couple of quotes to emphasise this...

"CEOs have the same relationship problems and life-stage issues as the rest of us,"

- Robert Michels, Psychiatrist and Psychoanalyst at Cornell University's Weill Medical College

"They think others expect them to be visionary or always in control. You have a lot of CEOs saying, 'Oh my God, what am I up against, and who can I talk to?' "

- Thomas Saporito, Senior Vice President of RHR International

CEOs Need To Have Meaning & Purpose

Being a complete outsider gives a therapist the opportunity to challenge a CEO to grow by telling them things that other people may not be prepared to say. It may be that they need a wake-up call as to where they are going in life. Here's an example....

"My therapist once said, 'Scott, you'd be happier if you lost everything and could start over,' and that's when he got my attention. [If it weren't for psychotherapy], I wouldn't be married today, wouldn't be happy, [and might not have become a CEO]. Once you get in touch with yourself, it's a lot easier to get in touch with others."

- Scott Flanders, CEO at eHealth, Inc


CEOs Need To Be Mentally & Emotionally Healthy

Health is holistic which means that CEOs need to look after their mental and emotional health in addition to their physical health - whilst ensuring they know why they are pursuing the role of CEO. There are tangible business reasons for ensuring their heart and mind are in the right place too...

"As a leader, you have to jump on ideas and provide an environment where employees can be creative and take risks. It's difficult to do that if you're not in good psychological shape."

- Michael Leven, Chairman and CEO of Georgia Aquarium

How Does This Apply To Us?

We are human beings and so we need to treat ourselves as such! Whilst advancing in our career and increasing our incomes may be something that is important to us, it should never come at the expense of our happiness and well-being. Take a moment to consider how healthy you are in the following parts of your life by rating them out of 10...

  • Physical health (energy, strength, stamina etc) /10
  • Mental health (concentration, focus, creativity etc) /10
  • Emotional health (happiness, self-esteem, relationships etc) /10
  • Meaning & Purpose (values, passion, long-term vision etc) /10

Now ask yourself.... what ideas do you have to maintain and improve your health across all four of these areas? Create a list for yourself and start scheduling some healthy habits! 🙂

For more on this, you may want to check out this article in the Wall Street Journal. Additionally, you may want to learn How The Netflix CEO Learned To Lead By Going Through Marriage Counselling.

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