The struggle is real. You want to be an average person. Yet, mental health remains hidden in the normalcy of your life. You are afraid people will think your abnormal or even broken if you discuss changes regarding your mental status. Let me assure you. No human has a static mental health status. We are all constantly moving toward mania or depression. It is the fluctuations of the human mental health cycle that push in one direction or another.
In his 2011 book, Nassir Ghaemi describes the homoclite as an average person concerning mental disease. You are most likely a homoclite. His thesis connects historical leaders during times of crisis with some form of mental disorder. Mental illness helped famous leaders accomplish results mere homoclites may not have been able to do. In other words, crazy people thrive during moments of crisis.
Now let’s apply this thinking to leadership. Brene Brown’s groundbreaking work on vulnerability as a leader has taken contemporary business by storm. She contends vulnerability precedes trust. This reality is counter to popular belief. In the past, most people considered trusting a prerequisite for vulnerability. When it comes to our mental struggles, is vulnerability acceptable? Can we admit we are vacillating mentally? I mean, who wants to work with a crazy person?
Stigmas and orthodoxy are changing. Coaches and therapists (professionally or individually) are more common today. When I started business coaching almost twenty years ago, it was often hidden from public view. Most people felt ashamed of needing a coach. Today, it is trendier to talk about your therapist or coach.
If we apply Ghaemi’s thesis to business, can we say those leaders who are a little crazy thrive during moments of crisis like a global pandemic and perform better? Or, is the reliability of the homoclite better for business when everything around the business has been changed or upended? The answer, of course, is it depends.
Homoclites are suited for stable business periods. They are less likely to make complex strategic changes necessary for long-term problems. Homoclites likely managed circuit City. They were unable to create change when attacked by Best Buy and Amazon. They resorted to cost-cutting measures that hastened their demise, bankruptcy, and liquidation. They fired the internal experts and replaced them with lower-paid customer service teams.
When blitzscaling a business, investors throw average risk profiles out and opt for speculation with irrational sums of money to capitalize on hyperbolic growth. In other words, they bet big against the odds. This reality is not fertile ground for homoclites who prefer the calm rather than a storm. It is more logical to assume these investors are a little crazy when they scale up a business with no sound business fundamentals in the hopes of capturing an unknown, future market.
The challenge we face in business is the interaction between homoclites and those who are a little crazy. Mood changes afflict crazy people. They can be hyperthymic, which means excessive emotional sensitivity, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Dysthymia means a mood disorder characterized by a chronic mildly depressed or irritable mood often accompanied by other symptoms (such as eating and sleeping disturbances, fatigue, and poor self-esteem). Cyclothymia means relating to or being a mood disorder characterized by alternating episodes of depression and joy in a less severe form than that of bipolar disorder.
It makes sense to think cyclothymic leaders are more likely to be successful during periods of tremendous opportunity than homoclite leaders. Homoclites may never see the pending opportunity or threat in business. I contend they will resist change in the face of business opportunity as well as a business risk. They will default to the past practice that maintains stability.
Though only anecdotal, I would not consider Steve Jobs and Elon Musk to be homoclites. There is documentation of past behavior that justifies this judgment. I assert that the mental movement in unusual individuals allows them to see opportunities. Because of their own mental experience, they can see the world (and the future) as others do not.
The pandemic is likely a proving ground for leaders to test resilience to a changing market. Homoclites are struggling to adapt to changes and seek a return to normalcy. They cannot wait for things to get back to normal. Crazy leaders are excited about pivot opportunities and see the pandemic as an opportunity to embrace radical actions considered in the past. Mental ups and downs have conditioned them for this crisis, and others yet to come. It is all about perspective in the mind of the leader.
I am neither glorifying nor underestimating mental illness. Mental problems can have devastating impacts on the lives of those who suffer and those around them. I hope we learn to embrace the value of the struggles people face mentally as an opportunity to get better and be better as a result. I hope the stigmatization of having problems and seeking help becomes a part of our past. The most significant contributor to mental health is genetics. You are not to blame. If you are a homoclite, you are not to blame for being considered normal and less effective during historic times. If you are a little crazy, it is not your fault you can operate better in a crisis. I want you to be successful no matter what.
I am using the word crazy lightly and euphemistically. Crazy Enough to Win is the name of my popular podcast. If you are a bit cra cra, it is ok. Crazy people accomplish things others are afraid to attempt. Crazy people go to the moon and explore the depth of the ocean. They risk it big, go all in for business opportunities, and invent things others did not know they needed. Crazy people get $%! done. They do not suffer the plight of the homoclite.