But the foundering economy — and even fear of losing their own jobs — is putting many executives under enormous pressures. While workers on the lower rungs face the same stresses, the difference for executives is that they've been trained not to share their emotional burdens with others.
John Baldoni, a leadership consultant and coach, says some of the greatest stress for executives is because "we are in unchartered territory" in this economy.
"Managers need to know all the variables to do business, and right now they're really lost," he says. "They're not idiots. They're not blind to what's going on. But they can't show fear to their team. They need to be that rock."
At the same time, many executives can't — or won't — pull away from their jobs, causing their stress to mount.
"For many executives, their career is everything to them," Baldoni says. "It's their passion. But they become blind to the fact that there is an outside life."
Bill Morrison, a former investment executive, says one of the things he loved about his job was that something exciting was happening every day.
"It was a bit of a rush. I was well suited for the job because I liked the thrill," he says.
But in an industry that "encouraged" drinking as "as part of doing business" and with a family history of alcoholism, Morrison began to realize that he had developed an alcohol problem, binge drinking on the weekends.
Now a recovering alcoholic and co-founder of Alta Mira Recovery Programs in Sausalito, Calif., Morrison says he sees more and more executives struggling to cope with the demands of their careers and a faltering economy. He says that within a two-day period recently, two former colleagues called him for help because they have family members who are executives and need help for addiction problems.
Morrison says his facility is treating a lot of executives these days for a variety of addiction problems.
"And I think with the way the economy is going, we're going to continue to see a lot more," he says.
That doesn't mean those in leadership positions will easily admit they're having problems handling their jobs or their life.
"They can be tough to work with," Morrison says. "They don't want anyone telling them what to do."
At the same time, executives often have more resources to protect themselves against anyone trying to aid them, and can be "very crafty" when it comes to getting what they want, he says.
While rank-and-file employees may feel freer to discuss their anxieties with family or friends — even colleagues or bosses — leaders believe they must remain calm and fearless in front of their employees. They also crave the excitement of their work lives, as Morrison did, and may be reluctant to admit that stress is becoming a problem.
Baldoni says he believes it's important that leaders in these uncertain times express more of their emotions on the job to family and friends so a powder keg of stress doesn't build up.
"I think leaders need to show they're human," he says. "They need to show humility — something which is not taught in business schools. So, that means you shouldn't try and cover things up because that's when you get in trouble. Show some emotion if you need to. You can get angry sometimes. You just have to show you have some control over yourself."
Morrison says he has learned an important lesson that he wants to pass onto leaders dealing with stress in unhealthy ways: "Don't be afraid to seek help," he says. "You can change your life for the better."
Even with the treatment costs of $40,000 to $60,000 a month at his facility, Morrison has no doubt he will be seeing more executives in the future.
"They've got to realize if they don't get help, their disease (addiction) will eventually kill them."
Do you think managers are doing a good job of handling the stress today?