Friday, May 18, 2012

The Body follows the Head

Even though CIOs focus quite a bit on technology, they are also leaders and managers.  For them this means that they must constantly deal with difficult situations.  To list every type would be redundant but suffice it to say that CIOs are people managers, politicians, coaches, and triage experts.

Just like every other type of senior leader, all of these activities contribute to a high level of STRESS.  While I'm not a doctor I think it's safe to say that stress can cause all kinds of problems.  Ultimately, without some way to cope with stress, even people with the hardiest of constitutions are going to be looking at an early death or at the very least some type of physical breakdown in the future.  If you think that's too extreme, we could go for lack of sleep, joy, satisfaction.  In any case, untreated stress leads to bad consequences.

Here are some examples of  leaders from history who didn't cope well with stress:
  • Mozart - died at 35; worked himself to death
  • Alexander the Great; died at 33; drank himself to death
  • Sigmund Freud; used cocaine to "calm and expand" his mind
  • Janis Joplin/Jimmy Hendrix/Jim Morrison/Amy Winehouse/Michael Jackson/Whitney Houston/River Phoenix/Bon Scott, etc.; leaders in entertainment and all went out pretty much the same way
  • Winston Churchill; didn't die young but was drunk almost his entire adult life
  • Jack Welch; philanderer
  • Jack Kennedy/Bill Clinton; philandering
  • George W. Bush/Barack Obama; both admitted using cocaine
  • Howard Hughes; went insane
While the list above is somewhat sensational, it does highlight that those people who have great responsibility of some type are also at higher risk of developing poor coping mechanisms.

I tell leaders that I manage, especially those on track for the CxO level, that they need to develop positive coping mechanisms proactively.  As I tell them, if you don't find an outlet on your own, one will find you - and it may not be the one you'd pick given a choice.  The body always follows the head - this means that if your mind is not in harmony, neither will your body be.

If you are a CIO, CIO-in-training, or a leader in general, my advice to you is to find an outlet early.  Find that special way that works for you to bring on harmony and peace within the mind.  Be it golf, tennis, reading, volunteering, writing, whatever, but find it!  The responsibility of leadership, without some sort of coping mechanism, will tear down even the hardiest of us all.  Find that outlet!

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