Is Your Leadership Healthy?


For the past year or so, I have been giving a great deal of thought to the pressing issue of mental health. It seems that every week, mental health emerges as a foundational issue in a new area, from schools, to sports, to social issues, and yes, even in corporate boardrooms.

You may wonder: Since I recruit executives to serve on corporate boards, why am I writing about mental health? The answer is simple: Because mental health permeates the lives of everyone, everywhere, and it matters to boards!

The chances your CEO or someone on your executive team in the US is suffering from mental health challenges is one in five. Globally, one in four people are affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives.

It’s critical that everyone in companies ask themselves some tough questions.

Boards: Do you have a succession plan in place for your CEO?

CEOs and Nominating Governance Committee Chairs: Do you have a roster of board candidates screened and ready to sign?

You may or may not learn or hear about specific mental health issues in your organization, but you can guarantee they are there. If they turn up, you will have to deal with them

Often behaviors and symptoms are so far below the radar that even the individual experiencing them may not recognize the signs. One contributing factor in Silicon Valley: workaholism is branded as a positive. When symptoms and signs are glossed over, pushed to another day, completely ignored or unnoticed, the result can be tragic — suicide, drug addiction or undiagnosed mental health issues such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.

In 2016, Law360 reports, the EEOC resolved 5,000 disability-based claims dealing with mental health conditions, costing employers approximately $20 million.

The following two tragic stories demonstrate what can happen when mental health challenges go undetected in the workplace:

A family man and successful attorney at the Silicon Valley firm of Wilson Sonsini, whose drug addiction went unseen by family and co-workers for years, worked in a high pressure industry that may have precipitated his addiction.

The pressure to succeed or at least maintain the appearance of success permeates work cultures, including academia. The former dean of USC’s Keck School of Medicine, also a family man, for years kept his anger management, drug and sex (young prostitute) addictions a closely guarded secret.

I am hopeful that change is in the air. Progressive leaders are feeling more comfortable sharing their vulnerabilities and emotional or behavioral health challenges. As they do so, that will help normalize mental health issues, particularly in the tech sector.

On July 30, 2017, in a Twitter conversation, Tesla CEO Elon Musk described his life as one of “great highs, terrible lows and unrelenting stress.” In response to a question, he said he is bipolar, “maybe not medically tho” To clarify, he added, “bad feelings correlate to bad events.”

Musk’s acknowledgement marked an important milestone. Slowly but surely, entrepreneurs are coming out about depression.

Last summer Tim Ferriss, the blogger, popular podcast host, and author of “The 4-Hour Work Week” and “Tools of Titans,” announced he is bipolar, suffers from depression, and had intended to commit suicide while he was a student at Princeton. Just this April, pop star Mariah Carey also revealed her struggles with bipolar disorder.

Many people stealthily function with mental health issues while others may derail. Being able and willing to assess and address weaknesses and risks in an organization is critical to the survivability of a company and it starts at the top.

Here are some things you can do to tune into your board or C-suite members’ emotional well-being:

· Create an environment of transparency so you can address issues immediately

· Socialize outside of work or board meetings — personally get to know each other

· Implement a yearly strategic planning meeting for team building and value share — engaging a leadership coach or facilitator to guide the process

In the words of Lisa Borders, president of the WNBA, “Failure is not fatal, it is feedback.”

Remember, as blogger and author Luvvie Ajayi puts it: “Everybody’s well-being is community business.” Recognize this and proceed with empathy.

Let’s make the world, including the corporate world, a better place for individuals who are suffering from mental health issues, whether silently or publicly, whether they’re managing those issues or masking them. They are doing extraordinary work right in front of your eyes and they need your support.


Would you like your board to run like the well-oiled machine of the Golden State Warriors, 2017 NBA champions? I am going to demonstrate how you can achieve success by thinking like the Warriors.

Of note, I have not been inspired to follow an American sports team since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson played for the “Showtime” Lakers of the 1980s. The Warriors grabbed my attention with their beautiful, sleek and skilled playing in 2015 when they won their first NBA championship in 40 years.

The athletic and statistical prowess of each player can help make a good team yet not necessarily an extraordinary one. The key is what I call the “stealthy” skill set — those traits and experience that are not obvious on the surface, but that help to facilitate synchronicity on the court.

Some highlights of how the Warriors’ stealthy skills come into play:

Sixth man Andre Iguodala teamed up with a close friend in high school and became a self-directed stock investor. When he was a free agent a few years ago, he decided to play for the Warriors in part because of the team’s location in Silicon Valley and its ties to venture capitalists, including majority owner, Joe Lacob, a partner at Kleiner Perkins. Andre sought out VCs and personally connected with and was mentored by Ben Horowitz of Andreessen Horowitz, who recommended Andre for a portfolio company’s board seat.

Another stealth trait of Andre’s is his willingness and conviction to mentor, educate and guide more junior players in becoming champions and leaders in managing their own finances. NBA players’ careers typically last about six years. Many professional athletes don’t know how to deal with sudden wealth and wind up over-spending and then filing for bankruptcy after their playing days end. Through his mentorship, Andre contributes to the future well-being of his teammates.

Kevin Durant also embraced the Silicon Valley startup culture in starting his own investment firm, Durant Company. He has also launched a charitable foundation. Kevin is also an underground hip hop star, performing privately in his home among close friends. He describes it as music therapy; he lays down the words and it clears his mind.

Kevin, his teammates Zaza Pachulia, Draymond Green and others, along with coaches and staff, made the trek to San Quentin Prison in 2016 for the Warriors’ fifth year of playing against San Quentin’s Warriors’ basketball team. He told the inmates he wanted to “show you guys some love.” Draymond said he embraced the opportunity to “mingle and talk” and “show these guys they matter.”

Kevin appears to me to be an old soul. He emanates gentleness and sensitivity. The significance of his jersey number is a case in point: number 35, the age at which his childhood community center coach was murdered. He said, “It’s all about doing it for somebody I love. It’s not about what’s the better number and what looks better on me. It’s all about him.”

And I have to mention Stephen Curry. Is there anyone who can watch Steph Curry without a big grin on their face? Watching him play is one of the rare times when “awesome” carries the depth of its true meaning. Steph has his own charity, donating money for each three-point shot he makes to Nothing but Nets, a group that provides insecticide-treated bed nets to regions where malaria is prevalent.

Steph also maintains relationships with those who have helped him along the way. He recently returned to his high school to retire his jersey. He consults his former coaches and theater instructor about life to this day, and nurtures those friendships.

Behind the scenes, the Golden State Warriors’ General Counsel & VP of Basketball Management & Strategy David Kelly negotiates player and coach contracts, and manages legal and strategic operations for the Warriors’ forthcoming new sports and entertainment venue, Chase Center in San Francisco. He keeps all the balls in the air, so to speak. He, too, has a separate stealth skill he brings to the table: he is a successful hip hop artist. David also gives back via multiple board seats with non-profits, including the United Negro College Fund.

Finally, of note is the man who put them all together, advancing and exemplifying the theory that handcrafted, hand-picked teams are the secret to success: Warriors owner and CEO Joe Lacob (who coincidentally earned his bachelor’s degree from my alma mater, UC Irvine). He hired a general manager, Bob Myers, who had never worked for a team before, and two coaches who had not coached at any level, including beloved Warriors’ head coach Steve Kerr. OpenView recently posted these leadership lessons from Steve, and his tips apply to selecting board members: know your values and get to know your team through person-to-person relationships “based on compassion, trust and respect.” Joe also brought basketball legend Jerry West into the front office, not just as window dressing but as a real contributor. The San Francisco Chronicle noted, “One of the best things Lacob ever did was hire a presence who would offer a different opinion,” which is good insight for CEOs who prefer consensus-building boards; getting peak performance out of your team comes when differing opinions are at the table.

As Joe Lacob says, “There is an architecture to building a board of directors.” Unearthing stealth information, experience and passion that is not on a board bio, resume or LinkedIn profile is how you will create a “board of warriors” and succeed, keeping your shareholders profitable and happy.

Kim Clancy is founder and CEO of search firm Hampton O’Bannon Partners, LLC (HOP, LLC. She handcrafts retained searches in the SaaS space, helping CEOs, Nominating Governance Committee Chairs and investment bankers hand select board members for championship-level success.

All [A]board: Insights and Inspirations for Your Journey to and in the Boardroom

“When a company is trying to fill a board seat, the CEO and sitting board members often inadvertently default to their own immediate circle, and that pool and their ultimate judgments tend to tip toward finding sameness.” Kim Clancy (page 37)

Read the collective wisdom here as composed and published by Farella, Braun + Martel.

CEOs: How to Recruit Your Boss — Board Members Who Increase Your Bottom Line

Kim Clancy video interviews Penny Herscher on HOPTalks.

Hear the following take-aways:

*How to understand the role of the activist type investor.
*Learn the value of educating and networking one’s way including the use of a recruiter, onto a board.
*Hear how the diverse range of backgrounds, experiences, opinions lead to better board decision making.
*How stressing the importance of needing to see a diverse candidate range is the CEOs role.
*How a diverse management team is more successful at delivering better financial results.

Do It For The Right Reasons: Boards With More Women Grant Higher CEO Pay

Gretchen Morgenson’s “Fair Game” column in the Sunday New York Times Business section is a must read for CEOs, their teams and all investors. Gretchen is known for uncovering discrepancies, inequities, and potentially illegal maneuvers in the corporate world. The headline on this particular column, “Where More Women Are on Boards, Executive Pay Is Higher,” really grabbed my attention. My first thought was, this is a win-win. You get more women on boards and CEOs will be more highly compensated.

Alas, first thoughts are not always what they seem. As I dove deeper into Gretchen’s article, she pointed out several issues that countered my initial excitement.

The most disturbing notion was what may be behind the number: pressure women feel to avoid upsetting anyone in the boardroom. In the column, Nell Minow, a corporate finance expert, said executives are “looking for a consensus builder in a director. What that means is someone who doesn’t rock the boat.”

I was disappointed to learn that women in the boardroom are caving to the consensus; after all, the consensus may be wrong, or it may not be what is best for the company or its shareholders. In her column, Gretchen talks about how this may be the result of the hard road these women had to travel simply to get on a board. Even though they are often extremely successful and accustomed to speaking their minds, now that they’ve made it to the boardroom, they are not willing to go against the CEO for fear of losing their seat.

This attitude seems to fly in the face of the intent for diversity and inclusion. Yes, you need a consensus to move forward and get things done, but if you rely solely on a CEO and his or (in the rare case) her consensus-building directors, you will lose the statistically proven profitability benefit of a diverse board. You want a diverse board so you’ll hear perspectives you haven’t considered, not just so it can tell you what you want to hear.

Companies can remedy or alleviate this issue by implementing onboarding procedures that include discussions of the best practices for broaching opinions or ideas that differ from the CEO’s. Input on this can come from the CEO, board members and an outside vendor. Onboarding procedures should also include, in writing, the philosophy and values of the company. CEOs who embrace diversity in their corporate culture will have an easier time in allowing for differing opinions on their board. In the end, they’ll also have a more profitable company.

That’s because, after all, having diverse boards and workforces really do lead to better financial performance, and it’s got nothing to do with sycophantic behavior. See this Wall Street Journal article about how companies with more women and minorities in the upper ranks tend to turn in better financial performance, and this Yahoo Finance article about a study showing that companies with women on their boards outperformed those who only have men on their boards.

Smart CEOs don’t just want a rubber stamp. They want someone to give them honest answers. In the words of University of Notre Dame researcher Craig Crossland, management professor at the Mendoza College of Business: “Diverse groups tend to engage in discussions that are more thorough, more contentious and more likely to identify problems with the topic at hand.” CEOs need that frank and open dialogue, which will lead to better decisions.

Add women, people of color and LGBTQ community members to your board and encourage their divergent ideas, and you will make more money — not only for you, but for everyone in your company.

Kim Clancy is founder and CEO of search firm Hampton O’Bannon Partners, LLC (HOP, LLC). She helps technology companies attract and hire women and minorities to their boards.

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