Nick Johnson is a thriving executive after coming back from depression
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Vulnerability is human – also for executives

A personal crisis hit Nick Jonsson seven years ago. He was fired from his job and fell into a downward facing spiral, from which he hit rock bottom two years later. But then things changed.

“I call it: My Journey from Being a Fat, Daily Drinker and Lonely Executive to a Thriving CEO and Endurance Athlete via the Power of Vulnerability.”


In today’s fast-paced and demanding corporate world, executives are often expected to portray an image of strength, confidence, and unwavering competence. However, beneath the surface, many executives grapple with their own personal challenges, doubts, and insecurities. It’s time to acknowledge that vulnerability is not a weakness but a strength that can lead to personal growth, improved well-being, and enhanced leadership skills.

Let’s start with the story of Nick Jonsson, a successful CEO who went through a personal crisis that ultimately transformed his life. Seven years ago, Nick experienced a series of setbacks, including losing his job, going through a divorce, neglecting his health, and spiralling into isolation.

“I had been working for a company. I defined myself in my work and was proud of it. When I lost it, I Lost my identity. I didn’t know how to deal with it. What should I tell my friends and family? Lost my confidence. Started drinking and isolating myself into a deep depression.”

He found himself wearing a facade of confidence, afraid to ask for help and scared of being judged. However, everything changed when he mustered the courage to seek assistance and open up about his struggles. It was a turning point that led him on a path of self-discovery, resilience, and personal transformation.

Executives double lives

Nick’s journey highlights the importance of vulnerability, even for executives who are often perceived as invincible.

“Many executives live double lives, projecting an image of success while battling self-doubt and internal struggles. The pressure to perform and maintain a polished facade can be overwhelming. However, creating an emotionally safe workspace that encourages vulnerability allows executives to grow from the inside out.” He says.

Impacts the whole organization

The well-being of executives directly impacts the overall profitability and retention of an organization. When leaders are vulnerable and open about their challenges, it creates a culture of authenticity and trust. This, in turn, fosters healthier relationships, improves employee engagement, and increases productivity. Vulnerability can become a catalyst for positive change and inspire others to embrace their own vulnerabilities, fostering a supportive environment where everyone can thrive.

Nick Jonsson speaks from painful experience, when he talks about the importance of having someone to talk to.

“One key step towards embracing vulnerability is to build a circle of trust. Executives should seek trusted peers, mentors, or coaches with whom they can share their struggles and concerns. Having a support system allows for open discussions, problem-solving, and gaining valuable insights. It’s crucial to be proactive in seeking help, even when everything seems fine on the surface.

By reaching out to others, executives demonstrate humility and a willingness to grow, ultimately boosting their self-esteem and deflating their ego.

Additionally, executives should consider incorporating reflection and introspection into their daily routine. Before going to bed, they can write down their feelings and identify individuals with whom they can share their thoughts and concerns. As Nick Johnson puts it:

 “Remember, a problem shared is a problem halved.

Keeping emotions and challenges bottled up for years can lead to emotional breakdowns and mental health issues. By practicing vulnerability and seeking support, executives can prevent such crises and find solace in knowing they are not alone.

Setting an example

It’s important to recognize that vulnerability is not limited to seeking help but also involves extending help to others. By sharing their experiences and supporting their colleagues, executives not only gain self-esteem but also contribute to the growth and well-being of their teams. Leadership should set an example by embracing vulnerability, encouraging open discussions, and fostering a culture that values authenticity and empathy.

Nick Jonsson’s own journey exemplifies the transformative power of vulnerability. As he embarked on his recovery, he realized that sharing his story was not only important for himself but also for others who might be facing similar challenges.

“By opening, I set an example for my employees and friends, inspiring them to embrace their own vulnerabilities and seek help when needed. Through vulnerability, executives can not only improve their own lives but also make a positive impact on those around them.”

Executives peer groups create safe spaces

At EGN we facilitate many different professional peer groups. Amongst these are a variety of CEO groups. In these groups confidentiality is key. There are no secrets and showing vulnerabilities is a sign of strength. CEO´s grow together in these groups, both professionally and personally. Read more about our CEO groups here.

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