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  • Kelsea Koenreich

The Dark Side of Being a CEO

The things that become normalized are the things we allow to be accepted as the norm.

I was recently browsing on my newsfeed and a list of things caught my eye.

I stopped scrolling and read the entire post, horrified that this situation was reality.

The vulnerable post began with gratitude for all that she and her company have accomplished in a short period of time, winning awards, accepting achievements and experiencing unheard of growth. She spoke about everything that people see on the outside of a successful business.

And then she compiled a list of what was happening to her, as the CEO, behind the scenes.

A herniated disk that resulted in spine surgery and high cholesterol from stress and quick food choices.

Physical exhaustion that kept her from being able to participate in bedtime or be present with her kids.

Panic attacks and her first anxiety meds.

Braces after grinding her teeth so much it shifted them.

The inability to sleep after only sleeping 4-5 hours per night for over 5 years meant she had to learn how to stay asleep and sleep longer again.

An eye that started drooping that she never even made it to the doctor to have checked.

As her business was quickly rising, she was experiencing mental and physical distress that she forced herself to power through.

I am so grateful that this brave CEO shared her story, because she isn’t the only one suffering in silence under a mountain of external accomplishments.

Every day another woman in leadership wakes up with a headache, anxiety about the day ahead and powers through her day to make it to the end… and get up and do it again.

Is this really what we want to normalize? What would happen if we stopped making it normal?

And furthermore, why are we making all this money and living a life that FEELS like this?

The Pain of Leadership

Choosing a leadership role is an opportunity to create change, fill a gap or solve a problem.

Unfortunately, there is a dark side of leadership that has been normalized in working too many hours while ignoring your physical and mental health.

There is humor spread through social media channels that softens the reality of the mountains of pressure, overwhelm and stress.

But is it really something to laugh at?

And is it really worth it?

Being seen as a leader is a position of power, and as leaders we must choose what we want to do with that power.

Lead the way the men and women before us did, or create a new path.

Leadership should be difficult because of the skills, innovation and eyes upon you - not because you are so exhausted your weekends are spent just trying to recover from the week prior.

If you are even taking weekends off.

We have the power, support, and technology to evolve.

If you think that you are being a good leader because you work 70+ hours a week, I am here to remind you that your worthiness isn’t dictated by how much or how quickly you produce.

What is stopping us from evolving?

The belief that faster is better.

The fear that if we wait we will miss out.

The thought that if we slow down we will fail.

You can move quickly, create an empire, make your mark on this world and lead a change without burning yourself out in the process.

A Better Way to Lead and Live

There are a number of people out in the world fighting for 4 day work weeks, shorter work hours, more vacation time and a TON of other things that will benefit humanity.

These ideas can feel impossible when you are buried in your current responsibilities and honestly, like a pipe dream.

Even if you have the intention to get there, it feels too far away and like there’s too much to do.

Plus, the only vacations you are taking leave you filled with dread of what you are walking into when you come back.

So, how do we inch closer to working less and taking care of ourselves more?

It’s a pretty little fancy tool I call Reverse Engineering and my clients love it.

I’m going to give you the condensed version since we don’t have the full 12 months my private clients spend with me.

  1. Take 5-10 minutes to write out your ideal day, week, or month.

How does work integrate with your life, how many hours and days are you working, how much time do you spend with your kids, how often do you travel, when are your date nights? Let your mind be open without judgment here.

  1. For each thing you wrote down that you want, identify ONE step you need to take.

Want a 4 day work week? Start by marking a day off and delegating/reorganizing that 5th day.

Want a weekly date night? Text your partner and schedule it.

Need a vacation? Go mark off a week in the next few months.

  1. Take that step.

Writing down a step isn’t going to make it happen, you’ve hustled to build your success - I know you know how to move so take that first step you identified, this shows your brain that it’s safe to have what you want and take care of yourself. (Even if it feels super scary!)

If we don’t learn to balance our own well-being with our work, we will never make the difference in this world that we really want to make.

Taking care of yourself as a leader is non-negotiable, your people are depending on you.

And if you need help, accountability, clarity, direction and support - let’s talk.


Spinning around with the same problems time and time again?  Dealing with everything feeling urgent and like you are treading water?

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