How to Manage Your Personal Problems as a Leader

You’re good at what you do. Your team is your priority, and when they’re dealing with personal challenges, you’re on it. You take care of your team well, and in turn, they look up to you.

But what happens when you’re the one facing a personal crisis? How do you deal with all those emotions when it’s your job to lead? How do you say "I'm not okay" when you know people are looking up to you for guidance?

Rely on your second-in-command

“This is why you need a Number Two,” Jocko Willink says. “You say, 'Hey listen team, I've got some stuff going on. My daughter's sick, my wife is having issues, I'm having problems. I've got to take a little bit of time.'" 

You can do that precisely because you have a second-in-command who's there to take the reins when you need them to. That's what they're there for. Just like a co-pilot takes over flying a plane so the pilot can take a break, your Number Two will have your back. In fact, they may even kick you out of the driver's seat if they see that you're struggling—as well they should.

"It's possible the Number Two's like, 'Hey boss, take a few days off. I got this. Hey team, the boss is taking a couple days of down time. You might have heard about his daughter; she's sick. We're giving him support. Sign this card for him.'"

That's a great person to have in your corner. Not only did they see that you were struggling, but they took the initiative to come up alongside you and do something about it. They found a real, practical way to help. A person like that is worth their weight in gold.

Take care of your people up and down the chain of command

In most companies, leaders are far more likely to have a plan in place to help crew members who are struggling than to help one of their own. And that has to change.

No one is immune to personal issues, not even leaders. So it's absolutely crucial that you have a system to help leaders manage their personal problems. And that includes you and your problems.

As Jocko so often says, relationships are the key. When you have good relationships, it's easier for people to spot when you're struggling. It's easier for them to know how to support you. And it's easier for you to voice your needs, because you have people you can trust around you.


Even the best leaders can’t avoid life’s problems. But as Jocko says, you can have a good second-in-command who's got your back, and you can build relationships that allow you to take care of your team up and down the chain of command. Do that, and you'll be able to manage your personal problems much more effectively as a leader. 

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