Leadership is not just about guiding others; it also involves taking care of oneself. In today's fast-paced and demanding world, the concept of self-care has become increasingly important for leaders. It is crucial for leaders to recognize that investing in personal resilience is not a luxury or a distraction from their work, but rather a "mission critical" aspect for both themselves and their organizations. By shifting their perspective on self-care, leaders can enhance their effectiveness, well-being, and ultimately, the success of their teams and organizations.
Today we will examine how reframing self-care can benefit leaders and their teams.
The Need for Resilience
Leaders face immense stress managing teams in today's fast-paced world. Pushing oneself to work non-stop leaves leaders depleted, affecting their ability to perform. Without proper rest, nutrition and recovery time, leaders lack the energy, patience, empathy and clear-headedness needed to make good decisions and guide their teams. This harm to the leader negatively impacts the whole organization.
Just as organizations invest in maintaining equipment, leaders must invest in maintaining themselves. We should move away from seeing self-care as indulgent. When leaders internalize the message "our people are our greatest asset," they will realize caring for their own health and resilience benefits the entire organization.
More Sleep Improves Focus and Decision-Making
Many leaders sacrifice sleep due to heavy workloads and the belief it demonstrates dedication. However, chronic sleep deprivation impairs judgment and focus. Leaders who consistently get 7-8 hours of sleep are better able to focus during long meetings, quickly analyze complex problems and avoid rushed decisions that overlook key factors. Clear-headed analysis from well-rested leaders prevents costly mistakes.
Healthy Eating Fuels the Body and Mind
When busy leaders skip meals or consume quick sugary snacks, they feel drained and can become irritable or impatient with their team. Eating healthy proteins, fats and complex carbs provides steady energy and mood. Leaders who take time for nutritious lunches and snacks can remain patient and engaged in problem-solving instead of succumbing to frustration. They model good self-care habits for the team.
Regular Exercise Clears the Mind and Reduces Stress
Exercising 3-4 times per week reduces anxiety and stress while boosting energy and concentration. Leaders who make time for exercise cope better with heavy workloads. A lunchtime jog or gym session helps clear the mind so leaders return focused instead of frazzled. Endorphins from exercise improve mood, making leaders more approachable. Their calm carries over to benefit the entire work environment.
Taking Real Breaks Improves Creativity and Motivation
When leaders constantly work in a frenzied manner, they deplete their creativity and motivation. Taking genuine breaks for hobbies or vacations allows the brain to recharge. Leaders who detach and pursue fun interests outside work return with fresh perspectives. They tend to be more imaginative problem-solvers who can inspire their team with renewed purpose and passion. Their breaks increase engagement and creativity.
The well-being of leaders impacts entire organizations. Reframing self-care as an investment in resilience, not an indulgence, allows leaders to truly care for their "greatest asset" - themselves. Prioritizing sleep, nutrition, exercise and recovery boosts focus, decision-making, patience, empathy and overall performance. Leaders who embrace self-care send the message that people matter more than constant grind. Modeling healthy resilience motivates teams and fosters supportive, successful organizations. Treating oneself with care yields dividends for all.
Jonathan H. Westover, PhD is Chief Academic & Learning Officer (HCI Academy); Chair/Professor, Organizational Leadership (UVU); OD Consultant (Human Capital Innovations). Read Jonathan Westover's executive profile here.