True leaders speak their truth. I am a much better person and leader now that I have been public with my illnesses than I was before. It is honesty, authenticity, and vulnerability that we need in those who light the way. Yes, strength is part of leadership and being honest about mental illness shows unbelievable courage!
Skip Bayless, a Fox tv sports anchor, made some comments recently that caused a lot of controversy in the mental health world. He was referring to Dallas Cowboy Quarterback, Dak Prescott, who had openly shared his battles with mental health. I watched the video of Skip’s response to that and was beyond disgusted. His belief is that because Prescott is a leader he shouldn’t share his personal battles, which includes the suicide of his brother, and doing so somehow compromises his ability to lead. It is one of the most ignorant things I’ve ever heard. History has shown that some of our most amazing and impactful leaders actually struggled with mental illness. From Winston Churchill to Princess Diana to Romeo Dalliare, there are stories upon stories of individuals who changed the world all while dealing with personal struggles.
I chose to go public with my mental illnesses in 2016 but I had been open in quiet circles before that. I recall going in to an interview for a board position with the local Canadian Mental Health Association and for the first time in my life said it out loud to a stranger. It was a turning point and they embraced me on the team. I loved having a place where I could be seen as a leader but also as a consumer/survivor. As I became more and more open, I found that my leadership skills kept improving. Don’t get me wrong, I was still scared as hell about the reaction I might get, but slowly but surely I was able to build up my credibility, simply because I was finally being honest with myself. Acknowledging my truth internally allowed me to shine more externally. I’m not a perfect leader and will keep making mistakes along the way. But what I am totally confident in is that I am a strong one and not weak in any way.
Michael Landsberg of Sick Not Weak did a video blog and thanked Skip Bayless for his “stupid” comments and I applauded that. Why? Because when someone says something so ridiculous it reminds all of us who are advocating why its important to keep going. Its motivates us to fight on. I will never say that its easy to be public about personal mental health challenges, but if someone chooses to speak then we owe it to them to listen.