John works hard. He is passionate about his profession. John is very good at what he does, great even. He is competitive, often outperforming others in his team. John drives himself to give ever more, pushes his limits.
And after a couple of years, John gets a promotion. Now, John is in charge.
We all know a John. He’s neither the good nor the bad guy in the story. Instead, he’s a character who we maybe even aspire to be. Someone with great passion, dedication, and spirit. Someone who constantly tries to be better in what one does. John is not a problem for a company. Not until he gets promoted, at least.
Unfortunately, still, many businesses promote the best performers to leadership positions without training them in their new roles. Once you’re in charge, your responsibility shifts from tasks to people. And not everyone great at the job is automatically suited to manage a team.
I’ve written this before: A great leader’s most important job is to provide an environment where everyone can be the best version of themselves.
As mental health awareness starts to unearth in Switzerland’s media industry, it’s essential to talk about leadership and its responsibility regarding mental health issues.
A disregarded issue
A few days ago, I attended a panel on mental health by Switzerland’s young journalists’ association. And I once again realised how crucial leadership is to psychological safety and mental wellbeing in a company.
The media industry doesn’t face more significant challenges than others when it comes to digitisation. Shrinking advertising revenue thinned the personnel in newsrooms, distributing the ever-increasing pressure and speed on fewer shoulders.
However, journalism is not simply a business like retail but should also fulfil a broader role in society. So, the stakes are exceptionally high, which makes journalism a fascinating case.
Many disrupting debates are happening around journalism. The reflection in newsrooms (and parts of society) around diversity, inclusion and trust are vital. Actually, these debates should be held in an even broader fashion.
However, mental health is still mostly disregarded by media companies. The standard narrative: Journalism is a passion, not a profession. You need to really want it. You need to be a John.
“Young journalists cannot afford to have an opinion.“
Yes, it’s true: Most journalists I know have an almost unnatural passion for their job. And they are undoubtedly aware of the job’s societal significance. “You choose this profession because you burn for it. So you have to be incredibly careful that you don’t get burned out,“ explained Vinzenz Greiner recently in a video statement.
Those two aspects drive them to perform, even in circumstances where others might scratch their heads. For example, most newsrooms still don’t have a proper time reporting in place. Unpacking all the structural problems and their interconnections would exceed the limits of this post in an instant.
But one thing stood out to me while attending the mental health panel.