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“Men Don’t Cry” And Its Impact On Leadership And Mental Health

Written by: Olga Kiendler, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


“Men don’t cry” is the behavioral model that leads back to how men have been raised to be strong, not cry, and not show emotions. It has shaped the definition of a “strong man”, who must eliminate any vulnerability in life to succeed. Having “thick skin” is still the epitome of a capable, successful leader and manager. Societal norms, perceptions of masculinity, and how men need to behave professionally and personally are built on this model.

Impact on mental health

According to the World Health Organization, death by suicide kills three times more men than women. Yet, men are still less likely to seek help than women, especially for stressful or traumatic life events, depression, and anxiety. There are many reasons for this, from stigma over outdated belief systems to accepted role models. The most common fears related to seeking help are:

  • Fear of judgment.

  • Fear of rejection.

  • Fear of loss (role, business, financial and societal status).

  • Fear of being perceived as weak and unstable.

  • Fear of being vulnerable and simply not strong enough.

Instead, bottling things up seems like a safe alternative to many.

Higher levels of unprocessed emotions may find their expression in negative behavioral patterns or deterioration in health. Overthinking, lack of energy, insomnia, aggressive behavior, lack of focus and attention are just a few to mention. Depending on their intensity, these states may often lead to addictions or bad habits and impact private and professional lives.

Where does the real strength come from?

Real strength comes from accepting and acknowledging our deepest values and vulnerabilities and developing healthy coping mechanisms and modes of emotional expression. It is imperative to correct the mistaken assumptions that bottling things up gives men tick skin.

How does having “thick skin” impacts leadership styles?

The research shows that 78 percent of the corner office executives now see the need to change personally to cope with the requirements of transforming corporate structures and society. Empathy and the more human aspects of leadership are now required to keep pace with the evolving movement of people wanting to leave their jobs for more personal freedom and autonomy.

How can leaders with “thick skin” achieve this level of empathy and understand the more human aspect of leadership?

Empathy has been misunderstood for a very long time and still causes debates. One of the aspects emphatic leadership includes is the ability of self-reflection. Self-awareness is not only the way we see ourselves. It is the way we see the world around us. It is the way we interpret events, the way we act and react in certain situations. Once you become aware of this, you are aware of yourself, and you can interact with others on a deeper level. Once you allow yourself to identify the emotions that run your decisions and behaviors and acknowledge these, you will be able to act and react in an empathic way by understanding your own needs and the needs of those around you.

Meeting your team’s psychological needs is the first step towards creating an engaged and productive workforce. These basic psychological needs are the sense of belonging, autonomy, and building on one’s strengths. Before this, leaders need to meet their own psychological needs and process negative emotional patterns.

Leaders with “thick skin” are used to bottling things up, and hence they show lower levels of empathy. Their emotional grid might show a high level of resilience. However, at the same time, this kind of resilience may trigger specific behavioral patterns that don’t allow them to connect to their team and people around themselves on a deeper level.

Personal development is key to organizational transformation.

Personal transformation has to happen hand in hand with organizational transformation. It is not an option anymore but a must. Personal development is needed to achieve results. It is not the other way around. Working on oneself, opening up, and changing the engraved belief systems that men have to be strong by not expressing their vulnerabilities is just the beginning of creating a more empathic engagement. Between the ratio and emotion, emotion always wins. It is imperative to allow emotions to evolve and learn how to process them correctly so no one loses out by letting a negative one run their show.

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Olga Kiendler, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Olga Kiendler is a Rapid Transformational Therapist and Executive Coach. She combines latest cutting-edge therapy and coaching techniques to fast track increase in Emotional Intelligence in individuals and teams by freeing them from unwanted emotional and behavioral patterns within a record time. She also holds an Executive MBA from the London Business School and has previously worked for years in the corporate world in managerial positions across the globe. In one of her recent interviews, Olga said: "The time has finally come for more holistic, empathic and empowering leadership. This starts from within. You can't just "Do" it, you have to "Be" it, and to "Be" you need to free yourself from unwanted, disturbing patterns in private and professional life."



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