To understand the impact of therapy on leadership, we asked eight professionals from various industries to share one way that therapy has helped them become better leaders. From CEOs to Managing Directors, these leaders reveal how therapy has improved their skills, starting with knowing when to listen and ending with managing emotions constructively.
- Worked on Listening Skills
- Enhanced Communication Through Therapy
- Valuing an Outsider’s Perspective
- Enables More Independent and Productive Work
- Balancing Communication Styles
- Separating Business and Personal Relationships
- Builds Emotional Intelligence and Company Culture
- Mindfulness for Self-Management
Worked on Listening Skills
I’ve always thought of myself as a powerful leader. But I’ve slowly learned that this doesn’t always mean giving directives and expecting them to be followed. Sometimes, it means being the one to listen. And I’ve learned the importance of this through therapy.
Through the one-on-one sessions I’ve had with a therapist, I’ve learned how to be more attentive to the surrounding people. I’ve learned how to be more responsive to their needs. And I’ve learned how to better manage my own emotions so that I can be a better leader for those working under me.
What I’ve learned through therapy is that sometimes the best way to lead is by following. By being the first to listen to the needs of others, I’ve become a much better leader.
Enhanced Communication Through Therapy
When I started my first business, I knew little about leading a team. I wasn’t the best communicator and struggled to express my thoughts, emotions, and ideas clearly.
For example, I didn’t know how to handle myself in large meetings or develop a strong work culture within my team.
But when I started therapy, my therapist taught me about different communication styles and assigned communication exercises and games such as the Crazy Comic and Blindfold Rope Square.
These exercises allowed me to motivate, lead, and effectively communicate with my team. We can now freely share ideas with each other that help us achieve our business goals.
Scott Lieberman, Owner, Touchdown Money
Valuing an Outsider’s Perspective
Viewing therapy as a sign of weakness is crazy. Everyone can benefit from therapy—especially business leaders. No one is under more stress and juggling more balls than business leaders. Therapy can help in innumerable ways, but for me, the greatest benefit is simply turning off my phone for an hour and talking to someone outside of my business and personal life.
Everyone in your life has some angle. Shareholders want better performance. Employees reach for upward mobility. In short, everyone has an agenda.
Thus, being able to sit down and talk to someone with no agenda is liberating. It gives you a chance to reflect, as well as provides an outsider’s opinion on what’s happening in your business and personal life.
This allows you to put your lessons into action and be a better leader. A third-party opinion by someone trained to tease out truths is worth its weight in gold.
Enabled More Independent and Productive Work
Pre-therapy, I was a stereotypical first daughter of divorced parents, developing a skill set not best suited for leadership—lack of confidence in standing up for myself, taking on too much because of an inability to say “no”, and being a people-pleaser.
My upbringing led to my first-time leadership being a mini-disaster. Yearning to be a likable boss led to my employees becoming spoiled because I granted them every request and covered for their work at the detriment of my own.
This led to seeking therapy to become a better leader. I learned assertive and communication skills to not only stand up for myself but also to guide team members to work more independently and productively.
What I learned in therapy has served me well, including in my current position as a team lead for a digital media company in the insurance sector. My skills are especially helpful in offsetting the extra challenges of communicating with an all-remote staff working a variety of schedules in various time zones.
Balancing Communication Styles
As a leader, therapy has helped me balance the way I communicate with my direct reports. Prior to therapy, I used to keep my feelings bottled up, and I had a difficult time being assertive. I wanted all my team members to like me, and as a result, I would sometimes get taken advantage of.
Luckily, therapy has opened my eyes and given me several tools to take a stand, and clearly outline exactly what I want from my team in a firm, yet non-judgmental manner. Not only has this novel approach improved our team’s overall efficiency, but I also think my direct reports appreciate it as well since they no longer feel like it’s a free for all.
Separating Business and Personal Relationships
Therapy got me in touch with myself long enough to see the difference between things that were “just business” and the things I was taking too personally. Businesses involve relationships. And relationships can involve dynamics that lead to people assuming a relationship has greater, epic meaning.
You find lots of broken hearts on LinkedIn, for example, from people who felt their business relationship with a company was like a “family”. And when they were laid off, they could not understand how that would be possible. I firmly believe the behavior of burning bridges with companies happens when a staff member feels lied to.
Therapy taught me to separate relationships, which, as a leader, allowed me to be more direct and honest with the people I work with. At first, it can be a bit much, but the intention is to make sure all relationships are built on trust and fairness.
Builds Emotional Intelligence and Company Culture
Undergoing therapy has been a transformative experience, as it not only improved my own emotional intelligence but also had a profound impact on our company’s culture and success. By becoming more attuned to my emotions and those of my team members, I have been able to foster a nurturing, inclusive environment that values empathy, collaboration, and open communication.
My new compassionate approach to leadership has resulted in stronger relationships among team members, leading to better employee retention and a harmonious workplace. In this supportive atmosphere, everyone feels valued and heard, encouraging them to work more effectively together and feel more invested in the company’s success.
We now attract similar individuals who are passionate about our shared goals and vision. This has contributed to a more enjoyable and harmonious workplace and allowed us to build a talented and dedicated team that is committed to the success of our organization.
Mindfulness for Self-Management
One of the most important things therapy has taught me is mindfulness, and I credit that as helping me become a better leader. Anxiety and stress were perhaps my greatest demons, and they became debilitating. Therapy helped me understand my own triggers and learn how to manage my emotions in a more constructive way.
Self-awareness and being anchored in the present are the crux behind mindfulness. It is a meditation technique that helped me stay grounded and focused. The troubles of the past can often interfere with the present, and fear of the future is yet another source of stress.
Mindfulness taught me to accept and face these issues while continuing to move forward. It is the art of bolstering your resolve and getting things done!
This mindset truly helped me become a better leader, as it taught me to manage myself, and that you can’t lead others if you can’t lead yourself first.