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Feeling low? Stay down for a while

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers

Tom Johnson—a capable, driven, highly successful exec—was having trouble getting out of bed in the morning. With little warning, his secretary would have to reschedule his appointments.

The problem: Johnson, former publisher of The Los Angeles Times and later chief executive of CNN, was secretly suffering from chronic depression.

Depression hits people at every level of the work force. It’s an “under” disease: underdiagnosed, underdiscussed and undertreated. Execs tend to resist seeking help because they see it as a sign of personal weakness; high-achievers resist it most of all.

If you’re making poor decisions and feeling malaise or a limited range of emotions, you may be chronically depressed. You owe yourself an honest assessment. Seek professional help first, then take these steps to safeguard both your own leadership position and the jobs of the people who work for you:
  • Limit your work hours. Today, high-level managers are expected to do much more with less. Some are working two or three jobs, and many no longer have administrative help. The resulting stress can push a person over the edge. The solution is to prioritize and let go of the minor stuff: at first so you can make time for counseling, and later so you can take the next two steps.

  • Spend more time with your family. Leaders face a continuous flow of aggravation from all sides. Family time can provide the antidote: a stable, pleasant environment built on unconditional love and loyalty.

  • Take time to reflect. “Life hours,” as opposed to “work hours,” will give you the space to reflect, so that you can set goals and priorities, come up with creative ideas and calm the anxieties that can trigger depression.
— Adapted from “Discouragement: Even Leaders Get the Blues,” John Baldoni, Wharton Leadership Digest, http://leadership.wharton.upenn.edu/digest/index.shtml.

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