GLS21 Notes: Leadership and Mental Health

Published August 5, 2021

Statistics confirm that families are struggling, and depression is on the rise. Too often leaders are required to help others but struggle to take care of themselves in the process.

In his talk at The Global Leadership Summit, Dr. Henry Cloud helped us contextualize and face the struggles all leaders are experiencing when it comes to mental health and gave us ways to get equipped to face these challenges. Whether you power through, run away or address your pain in a different way—Dr. Cloud helps leaders understand what is affecting them, how they can create a path to emerge stronger and pass that resilience on to others.

During this session, Dr. Cloud was joined by his guest, Marten Hoekstra, CEO of Wealth Management Americas, with oversight for approximately $700 billion in client assets and 18,000 employees. Marten shared how Dr. Cloud’s insights shaped his personal journey and helped bring his leadership to the next level.

Enjoy these official session notes to help you dive deeper into what you learned! 

Mental Health Crisis - Dr Henry Cloud


The Current Mental Health Crisis
    • What can I do to help people in my community or organization who are struggling with a mental health issue? How can I help leaders?
    • Normally, the number of individuals struggling with a mental health problem is in the high teens (15-17%). Now, after COVID, over 40% Americans would be diagnosable with mental health or addiction.
    • The diagnostic categories: mood problems or depression; anxiety; stressors or trauma; sleep struggles; addiction or substance issues
Becoming Aware
    • The first step is becoming aware of these issues in ourselves and others.
    • You can be a high performer and still have a next growth step that you need to be aware of to move into it.
    • As spiritual leaders, there are people hurting in your community and your faith is needed. Ultimately, what faith is about is to seek and to heal what is broken.

4 Categories to Address Mental Health

1. Connection vs. Emotional Isolation
    • I’ve never met a leader that is physically isolated. They’re surrounded by people all the time.
    • There is a quality to those relationships where you are on output; they are depending on you.
    • You can be isolated from a part of your heart.
    • Example: story of famous heart surgeon who was dealing with the fallout of an affair. He developed a plan for how he was going to grow and be better, but it was all about output. “Everything you are doing is output. There’s nothing coming in. When did you learn to not depend on anything from the outside coming in to help you?”
    • A baby comes into the world searching for connection. From the womb to the tomb—that never goes away.
    • Some of the symptoms of disconnection: depression/mood; anxiety/fear; acting out/impulse problems; addictions; distorted thinking (negative/worrisome)
What do we do about it?
    • Realize the need. God is the only self-sustaining person. He’s the Creator, the rest of us are creatures.
    • Be vulnerable. Find a safe place with safe people. You need someone who is not a stakeholder.
    • Move others toward a safe place.
2. Freedom vs. Loss of Control
    • Once we’re in relationships, it’s easy to lose our sense of freedom.
    • The other aspect is limit-setting, where you say “no” to people who are hurting you.
    • Boundaries will affect you in your leadership and in your personal life.
    • Symptoms of lack of boundaries or limits: depression; anxiety; co-dependency/enabling; powerlessness/blaming; addictions
    • One of the first treatments is getting people to take control of what they can control and let go of things they can’t control.
What does it look like to get boundaries?
    • Develop the “no” muscle.
    • Take extreme ownership and responsibility.
    • Set limits on bad behavior, control and manipulation. Sometimes it requires a necessary ending. You are a steward of the mission.
    • Respect others’ freedom.
3. Acceptance vs. Denial of the Imperfection
    • In the Garden of Eden, it was perfect. In the imperfect, we can see glimpses or portions of what the ideal looks like. The reality is there is a gap between the ideal and how I really am.
    • How we deal with the gap is the difference between thriving and not thriving.
    • What lives in the gap? Pain, shame and guilt.
    • In the airline industry in 1996, there was 1 crash for every 2 million flights. 350 people died in that year. In the past 12 years, we have had 8 billion passengers fly without one fatal crash. Now it’s 1 fatality for every 120 million departures.
    • When we are safe to get curious and learn from our mistakes, we do get better.
    • Symptoms of lack of acceptance: perfectionism/critical attitude; depression/anxiety; unresolved grief and pain; lack of emotional regulations; addictions
What does it look like to get to acceptance?
    • Embrace vulnerability. Confess your faults to one another.
    • Process your pain and grief.
    • Develop a growth mindset.
    • Monitor the tone with which you address imperfection in yourself and others.
    • Forgive, forgive, forgive.
    • People of faith: what is the good news of the Gospel? You have been accepted and forgiven for all the bad stuff.
    • You need a place to go do that. Take the sting out of the gap.
4. Adulthood vs Remaining a Child
    • We must become an equal adult psychologically. If we don’t, we begin to people please and this keeps you from performing at your best.
    • Symptoms of lack of adulthood: feelings of inferiority, people pleasing or needs for approval; anxiety/depression; black and white thinking; comparing yourself to others; addictions
What does it look like to gain adulthood?
    • Own your opinion and disagree with authority.
    • Identify who it is you’re afraid to speak your mind to.
    • Take people off pedestals and stop comparisons.
    • Try, fail and learn process. Adults increase their expertise over time.
    • See yourself and others as different but equal. It does not diminish you because someone is smarter or faster.
Reflection Questions
    • What are you being prompted to focus on and work on first?
    • Which one or two areas are calling out to you?
    • What is your next step going to be?
Applying What We’ve Learned
    • If you can identify with one of these areas, go find a safe place to process it.
    • Addressing the issue does not always have to be formal. It is a continuum. Get the appropriate level of help you need.
    • Leaders, you can do this for your people. Make space for connection.
    • Church leaders, we have a mental health crisis. You’re on the front lines of communities. The Gospel is the good news for people in these areas of pain. It’s the gospel of regaining self-control, confessing and learning that they are forgiven and growing up and using their gifts and abilities.
    • This is the calling of Jesus: “I came to seek and to save the lost.” This is in your mission.


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