The hardworking leader is often portrayed as a sleep-deprived, stubborn, borderline manic individual obsessed with the bottom line and neglectful of their own self-care. While some people might fit this category, most do not.
This stereotype can be harmful when it’s meant to lampoon leaders and mock anyone who struggles to achieve a healthy personal and professional lifestyle. Being a healthy high achiever doesn’t come naturally to everyone, and that’s okay.
In reality, the best leaders make time to take care of themselves physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially. Being able to balance the challenges of work with the importance of self-care is one of the most important leadership qualities. Failing to achieve this balance is a strategic leadership error that can bleed out into the rest of the business.
Ignoring the needs of one’s mind and body hurts one’s ability to think, focus, and help others in need. Conversely, engaging in self-care boosts the mind, body, and spirit, which also gives a boost to the others around you.
How strong is your self-care routine? Do you find yourself struggling to maintain a work-life balance? How are your coworkers and employees faring on this front? Here’s a deeper dive into how self-care can improve your performance as a leader and support a habit of good personal and professional health.
Proper Sleep: Alertness and Ability to React
Sleep science has come a long way in the past few decades and researchers have found a critical link between good sleep and improved work performance. The National Sleep Foundation reports that 29% of workers regularly feel sleepy while at work, which impacts their ability to function optimally.
Missing out on a good night’s sleep can lead to a loss of focus and increased irritability. A Harvard study found that a consistent lack of sleep was associated with lower work productivity, poorer job performance, slower career progression, and a lower level of overall job and career satisfaction.
When work piles up and deadlines loom, people often put sleep on the back burner. This is a big mistake. The importance of proper sleep can’t be overstated, especially for leaders.
Effective leadership depends on maximum alertness. By sacrificing precious hours of slumber, leaders are less equipped to react to challenges, prioritize tasks, and help other employees deal with their levels of stress. Conversely, getting proper sleep allows one’s mind to refresh, retain important information, and handle new problems as they arise.
The Healthy Body, Healthy Mind Connection
While improper sleep plagues a large chunk of the population, so does poor nutrition and exercise. As people rush from one place or task to the next, they forget to take time to nourish themselves with proper food, water, stretching, and other basic body needs.
To keep things moving in their busy professional lives, people may skip meals or grab the nearest, fastest option from the vending machine. The fast-food drive-through or microwave might become a substitute for fresh, nutrient-packed meals. While these choices may be convenient, they can do serious harm to one’s work performance and overall health.
Foods low in nutritional value don’t provide the vitamins and nutrients the brain and body need to thrive. Over time, poor choices negatively impact brain function and the results become obvious at work and in your interpersonal relationships. The National Institutes of Health call this the “food and mood” connection, which has long-term impacts for your physical and mental health.
While nutritional science is always evolving, most studies have shown that a diet of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean meat and fish, and minimal sugar is the most healthful approach. Drinking water is especially important, as is avoiding large amounts of alcohol.
Additionally, regular exercise has an array of positive effects. It improves metabolic function, burns calories, and also produces endorphins to increase alertness, reduce tension, and improve your mood. In this way, eating well and exercising are two of the best ways of managing leadership stress.
Setting an Example: Helping Others Find Self Care
Self-care does not equate to selfishness. Quite the opposite. By practicing self-care, leaders can do more for their employees because they do what it takes to maintain the personal capacity to nourish others.
As a leader, you might wonder how you can support your team members in their journeys of self-care and personal productivity. At the most basic level, how can managers help their employees deal with stress?
First, they can share their own experiences of dealing with stress with employees. People appreciate having a caring boss who takes time to listen to their challenges. By advising on beneficial sleep patterns, diet, exercise, and other methods of stress reduction, leaders can set a great example in the workplace and create a culture of healthy performance.
Additionally, leaders who practice self-care regularly will have more energy to help their employees. With enough rest and restoration, leaders can prioritize their workload to set aside time for helping others, honing these crucial leadership skills.
Leaders can also share resources that encourage positive routines, habits, thoughts, and behaviors. When they come across a book or program that helps them operate at peak performance, they can offer to connect a struggling employee or coworker to this same helpful resource.
Self-Care With the Accelerate Leadership Program
Do you need to update your professional self-care routine? Here’s a reliable resource with proven benefits for professionals and organizations.
The Accelerate Leadership Program (ALP) encourages positive self-care as a person builds their leadership talent, confidence, and knowledge. This is a health-positive method of learning leadership habits because ALP allows each participant to hone their leadership style in a personalized and individualized program.
ALP is different from many other types of leadership programs because it involves interpersonal coaching, not just training. Strategic leadership coaching programs go far beyond basic leadership training programs with a more caring and robust approach that incorporates leadership coaches, customized coursework, peer connections, and a highly interactive environment.
At Leadership Resources, our goal is to help people thrive and keep their personal and professional self-care at the heart of the learning process. We’re here to provide guidance and support that allows people to flourish in the workplace.
Leadership in times of growth, stress, and change truly tests one’s abilities. Self-care should remain at the forefront during these times, for the sake of the business, its leaders, its clients, and its employees who deserve the very best health and well-being.