If there’s one bit of wisdom that every leader should internalize, it’s that you have to take care of yourself before you can take care of others. The blessing of a position of leadership is that you build up the people around you, coaching them to reach their goals and mentoring them on their success journey. But in order to do that, you can’t be dipping into an empty well. Making sure you’re nourished from deep within is the key to success.
Caring for Your Body
Your body is like a machine, except machines have indicator lights that tell you when to add oil, or when maintenance is needed. Instead of indicator lights, humans get aches and pains, headaches, indigestion or insomnia. Regular preventative healthcare visits are important for self development, but the best prevention is more effective at the base level. Are you eating plenty of whole and natural foods, taking supplements when necessary, and exercising frequently enough to keep your cardiovascular system and musculature in good shape? A lot of executives claim that they “don’t have time” to schedule a workout routine, but it doesn’t need to be that complicated. Take the stairs, walk during your lunch break, and avoid foods that you know aren’t healthy. Look for opportunities to make healthier decisions and you’ll find them. A healthy body leads to a healthy mind.
Caring for Your Mind
Negativity, pessimistic thinking and internal dialogs that tear you down rather than builds you up can have long term consequences. A lot of overachievers suffer from “imposter syndrome.” You may be a natural born leader, but that doesn’t mean it’s OK to take your leadership skills for granted. If you find yourself condemning your own methods, or if your internal voice is keeping you from trying new things or taking healthy risks, then shut it down. Make it a habit to research the facts you need to back up that killer instinct, in the name of self improvement. Bounce ideas off of supportive coworkers, and don’t allow stress to be anything more valuable than a clue to something you might need to process a little more. Value those negative ideas as an opportunity to learn more and put the matter to rest, but don’t let it take up permanent residence in your mind. Keep learning, keep growing and trust your instincts. If something is making you feel unsettled then you need to find a solution that feels right, and that won’t come from lying in bed till midnight letting your wheels spin.
Get Proper Sleep
Insomnia can be as dangerous as alcoholism. Research has shown that a tired driver’s judgment is just as impaired as a drunk driver’s. You wouldn’t come to work drunk, so don’t come to work sleepy. Exercise, nutrition, and meditation may help, but if they don’t then it’s time to try something new. Most doctors recommend 8 hours a night, but everyone’s body is different and high achievers often thrive on less sleep. If you have the luxury of allowing yourself uninterrupted sleep for a few nights, use your body’s natural sleep pattern to determine how much sleep you should plan for each night.
Be Mindful of Your Surroundings
Is the after-hours crew growing restless? Is everyone on your team eating fried food for the third time this week? Are there patterns of failure that keep happening in certain types of projects? Has your assistant arrived late more often than usual? It may be nothing, or it may be that an effective leader can guide each of these situations into one that’s more conducive to a productive workplace. Of course, a leader who is so wrapped up in figuring out how to analyze the latest financial report won’t even notice. Don’t be that guy.
Caring for your team begins with caring for yourself. Proper nutrition, sleep and exercise create a stable body that allows you to build a stable mindset. The leadership qualities you’ve already shown to become a leader should be constantly developed through mindfulness, a positive attitude and a willingness to focus on preventing problems rather than putting out fires.