Managing a full-on leadership position, whilst facing the challenge of illness can be all-consuming, especially if the disability is ‘invisible’ to those outside your close circle of friends and family.

It’s a situation Leadership 43’s Director, Joanne Stanley-Bell knows only too well, as she explains.

“I have been a type 1 diabetic for 53 years. I was well supported by family but was often told, don’t let people at work know because it may ‘hold you back’. Indeed, my first choice of career was largely denied to me because of my diabetes.”

Type 1 diabetes is an auto immune disease which shuts down the body’s ability to produce insulin. Up until 1923 it was untreatable, until the discovery of insulin which was, and still is, administered by injections to control the disease.

Like many hidden diseases it is relentless. You can’t take a day off, must think a lot about eating and everyday make decisions about what you eat, when and how to respond to the results of blood sugar levels.

Inevitably, at times you can become exhausted with it all. This is now recognised as diabetes burnout.

As Joanne continues, “As a leader for many years, I never acknowledged this perpetual drain on my inner resource. Sometimes I felt unwell, even with the best control possible, but like many people I kept on going, finding it particularly hard because I didn’t let people know how difficult could be at times. They may have thought I was ‘making a fuss’, or using my diabetes as an excuse.”

After watching professional dancer Amy Dowden’s account of dancing on Strictly Come Dancing, Joanne realised this is a common occurrence. Amy takes eight steroids a day to treat her Crohn’s disease and this treatment can dramatically affect how she looks and feels. “There are so many people who have these disabilities that don’t ‘show’ but require a huge amount of energy and effort to live with.”

As part of the RLE, authentic leadership there is a statement which asks participants to consider ‘ask for and accept support from others’. As a Leader with a disability that’s not obvious, it can be difficult. Leaders need to be able to feel confident they can be open and often need support to do this.

Do you or someone on your team need support with this?

1:1 coaching as part of the Resilient leaders’ programme will enable leaders to address these issue and gain courage.

Recommend watch: Strictly Amy: Crohn’s and Me (BBC iPlayer)