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. Because you know how stress, worry, and anxiety can totally derail a person’s mental health. And how this, in turn, can affect work performance.

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, when you know the people on your team are looking up to you for leadership and guidance?

Even leaders experience personal challenges.

It can be a tough world out there. And bad things can happen, no matter how much you try to avoid them.

Usually your personal stress comes from something small, like an annoying neighbor who keeps parking their car at an angle that blocks your access to your own driveway.

But sometimes, you might find yourself facing something more serious. Maybe you’re having relationship difficulties. Or maybe your child needs surgery, or a parent who lives out of state is gravely ill.

No one is immune to personal issues, not even leaders. Personal crises are a part of life. The real question is, how do you effectively lead your team when you’re the one who’s experiencing a personal challenge?

Rely on your second-in-command.

You’ve got people under you who are looking to you for leadership and guidance. And this makes it difficult for you to take the time you need to manage your own personal problems. After all, can you really take time off, when you’ve got a team to lead and people to manage?

“This is why you need a Number Two,” Willink advised. “You tell your Number Two you’ve got some stuff going on. Maybe your daughter’s sick, or your wife’s having issues. And your Number Two will say to you, take a few days off, boss. I’ve got this.”

Chances are, your team already knows something’s up, and they have concerns. Your Number Two can get them together, tell them what’s happening, and address these concerns. The crucial thing is this: your second-in-command will be able to take care of your team in your absence.

“They’ll say, ‘Hey, team, you might have heard, the boss’s daughter is sick. Sign this card. Let’s show him our support.’” Willink said. “You know what I mean? This is how you take care of your people, up and down the chain of command.”

And knowing your team is in competent hands means you can turn your focus to managing the personal challenge that’s in front of you. You can make good use of the time you’re taking off, because you know the people who rely on you for leadership are being taken care of.


As a leader, you can’t avoid life’s stressors. But if you’re facing a personal challenge, you need to find a way to deal with things, while still taking care of your team.

Willink’s advice in such situations is to rely on your second-in-command. Having someone you can count on as your Number Two means you can tell them what’s happening, trust them to address your team’s concerns, and take care of your people in your absence.