Full disclosure I am not a psychologist or psychiatrist. I am a corporate executive coach and a student of observation.
The topic of CEO suicide is both concerning and thought-provoking. The reasons behind a CEO’s decision to take their own life are often complex and can be related to various factors, including depression, financial stress, and lack of courage. In this article, we will focus on the latter.
The role of a CEO includes being responsible for an organization’s overall strategy and success; this can be highly demanding, both professionally and personally. They must make tough decisions, manage large teams, and maintain a public image that inspires confidence in the company. This responsibility can be a heavy burden. As a result, many find themselves struggling to maintain their mental and emotional well-being.
One theory is that a contributing factor to CEO suicide is a lack of courage. Courage is often defined as facing danger, fear, or difficulty without being intimidated or deterred. This behavior can involve taking bold and decisive actions, even considering adversity. For a CEO, a lack of courage can manifest as a fear of making the wrong decisions, failure, or what others may think of them.
The lack of courage to confront the challenges of their role may result in being overwhelmed and hopeless. This feeling can lead to depression and other mental health issues, which can further compound their stress and anxiety. In some cases, the CEO may turn to drugs or alcohol to cope, which can only exacerbate the situation.
Another aspect to consider of CEO suicide is the stigma surrounding mental health. Even though mental health is widespread and more widely discussed today following Covid, many people in the C-suite remain silent, lacking the courage to speak openly about their struggles with depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues. This silence can still be due to a fear of damaging their reputation or being seen as weak or incapable. Sadly, many may suffer in silence and refuse to seek help, even when it is desperately needed.
The lack of courage can create a vicious circle around a CEO’s decision-making ability. When faced with a difficult choice, a CEO with low courage may need help to act decisively and instead become paralyzed with indecision. This paralysis can be particularly problematic in situations where swift action is necessary. In addition, the inability to make quick and confident decisions can further erode self-confidence and contribute to feelings of inadequacy and hopelessness.
The lack of courage can also significantly impact a CEO’s relationships with others. When a CEO cannot face challenges or make decisions, they may struggle to effectively lead their team and be present in their personal life. This behavior can lead to frustration and resentment among employees and loved ones and can negatively impact the morale and productivity of the organization and their home life, further exacerbating their isolation and sense of hopelessness.
It is vital for those in the C-suite and organizations to recognize the importance of mental health and provide support and resources for those struggling. With the right help and support, CEOS can find the courage to overcome the challenges they face, lead their organizations with confidence and success, and be present in their personal life.