Leadership on our toughest challenges will wear you down! That’s why taking care of yourself is one of just six skills highlighted in the leadership competency Manage Self. It’s tempting to play the hero by letting this one slide. Don’t do it. If we want to make progress on tough challenges prioritizing self-care is key. If we want to build cultures where everyone leads, we need to make attention to self-care the norm and expectation.
Need More Leadership? Pay Even More Attention to Self-Care
The more entrenched the challenge you are working on, the more people looking to you for a solution, the more important it is to pay attention to your own state of body, mind and spirit. Self-care is not pampering. It’s first aid.
Here’s the logic: If you are exhausted, you are more likely to get triggered. For most of us, exhausted and triggered isn’t pretty. We blow up, shut down, burst into tears, quit the field, or do something else (unique to our own beautiful selves) that makes it even harder to energize others to make progress on an important challenge.
Take good care of yourself and you’ll be more able to experiment beyond your comfort zone, more willing to tolerate uncertainty and conflict, and more successful at getting groups into the productive zone.
Got Authority? Model Self-Care
If you have an authority role in your company, organization, or community, let other people see you making choices to stay healthy. Talk to them about why you prioritize self-care. Let them know that while a side beneﬁt could be a longer life or better relationships, you are putting sleep, good food, exercise, spiritual practice, friends, and family front and center because doing so enhances your ability to exercise leadership. If you have direct reports, support them by providing time and space to assess and adjust their own approach to self-care.
Wherever you are on the organizational chart, own your power to practice attending to your physical, spiritual, and emotional health. Ask friends and colleagues how they do it. Then experiment with a few energy-generating habits and see what sticks.
Give and Receive Peer Support
An accountability partner or peer coach can be anyone in your circle who understands the link between taking care of yourself and leadership. Be the active listener who helps a colleague unpack and reality test all the habits and assumptions that get in the way of their aspirations to take care of themselves. Remind one another not to attempt to change everything at once. As with any other adaptive challenge, quick fixes don’t work (check out the chapter about why quick fixes don’t work in When Everyone Leads.) Instead, experiment and learn.
And remember, self-care is not pampering. It’s an act of leadership.