The myth of the superhero leader.

The MENTAL HEALTH OF BUSINESS EXECUTIVES…. A taboo subject… It’s time to break the myth

Business leaders are (wrongly) often labeled as superheroes. They are viewed as people in perfect control, nothing affects them, and they manage stress in an Olympian way. Being at the head of a company does not mean being insensitive and sheltered from everything. Quite the contrary!

In February 2019, a friend, close colleague, and brilliant business leader, took his own life. Overwhelmed by the weight of mental illness, he committed an irreparable gesture.! He was perceived as a “bon vivant”, a loving dad, a business genius, and a person who had thick skin. I want to address today’s myth of the leader with a “thick skin”.

According to several surveys, including from BDC, CFIB, and the Chambers of commerce, more than 50% of business leaders in Canada have or have dealt with mental health issues. In many cases, psychological distress is experienced.

I’m the first to agree that it takes a bit of madness to be an entrepreneur, but jokes aside, these numbers speak volumes! Despite this distress, few people will ask for help for fear of shattering the image of a brave, daring, and visionary leader. However, an entrepreneur’s greatest strengths are often passion, charisma, and humanity.

It can feel lonely at the head of a company, especially if you are the only leader, because whoever says entrepreneurship also says risks. When you take risks, it comes with important considerations. A leader knows that his actions and decisions impact his employees and their families, and this responsibility can be a hefty weight to bear! An entrepreneur also often wears several hats depending on the company’s size (Finance, Sales, HR, Marketing, etc.), and although very stimulating, it can quickly become exhausting. The goal is not to pity entrepreneurs and managers but to show the human and vulnerable side behind them. Too often, they are classified in the boss role by saying that it is easy because they manage their schedule and don’t have to ask anyone for permission to take time off or do whatever they want!

To you, leader, entrepreneur, or executive reading these lines, put away your superhero cape and keep it for Halloween with your children. Take care of yourself as much as you take care of your team and your company, talk, and give yourself little moments to relax and recharge your batteries so that the passion that drives you continues to flow through your veins. And now, despite a crying need for more support, resources are available. Excellent business coaches and psychologists work primarily with business leaders, groups of business leaders, and consultants of various kinds. Do not hesitate to reach out because these people can help take the company further! Alone we move faster quickly; together, we go further.

I will also take advantage of this tribune to appeal to our governments: Quebec is a leader in support of SMEs. Many programs exist to support the growth of Quebec businesses, but there are few or no resources for mental health support. Therefore, there is an excellent opportunity to make a difference because we need healthy leaders to have healthy companies!

P.S.: I am sharing this message today in honor of my friend, who would have turned 45 today. If it can help just one person to seek help, this text will have been well worth the effort, so SHARE in large numbers!

Veronique Plessis Belair


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