We often talk about the responsibilities of leadership – bringing out the best in others, managing conflict, creating and engaging others in a compelling vision, maximizing productivity and profits. Unfortunately, self-care is often left off the list.
The truth is that leadership is hard work and hard work requires energy. Not just physical energy, but emotional, mental and spiritual energy as well. It’s especially vital for you as a leader to keep up your own energy. You are regularly called upon to lend energy to your team, to keep the momentum going, and the process moving forward.
It’s helpful to remember you need to take care of yourself in order to take care of your team. Here’s a mantra for you to remember: Self-care is not selfish. Self-care is actually, ultimately, an act of service. In order to give yourself permission to engage in self-care, you have to let go of these myths:
Leaders are invincible – Leaders are not invincible or invulnerable. You will get tired, angry, hungry, fearful and discouraged. Your very human frailties are what allow you to understand and relate to your team and help them relate to you.
Self-care is too hard (or too expensive, or too time-consuming) – It really isn’t. Especially when you compare it to the cost of burnout. It’s simply about creating and consistently applying good self-care practices. Period.
Leaders should come last – Taking care of your team members and your team as a whole is a good thing. In order to do that, you have to replenish your own energy and reserves. If you consistently put yourself last, your energy may be gone before you get what you need, hurting both you and your team.
So, once you put those myths to rest, how do you actually engage in self-care? Start with awareness and taking inventory. Learn to pay attention to the cues that tell you that you need rest, food, water or a change of pace. Once you’ve done this, invest in yourself. Take the time needed to take care of you. Nourish and hydrate your body. Rest your brain as much as your body.
Next, create connections and a self-care system. Surround yourself with people who have your back and who tell you the truth when you’re doing well or when you need to self-correct.
Make time to replenish yourself with time away from work, time in nature, and spiritual nurture. There’s an old saying: “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” While it may not be possible to consistently keep your own cup completely full, it’s important that you don’t let the level get too low before you do something to refill it.
Here’s the bottom-line: you cannot be a great leader if you’re running on empty, physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually. Self-care is an essential part of leadership responsibility. Take care of yourself, and you’ll be able to take care of everything else and Increase Your Impact!
Dr. Sherene McHenry, Relational Leadership expert, is a widely acclaimed speaker, author and coach that demystifies how to lead, motivate and resolve conflict for optimal results. Known for being wise, witty and practical, Sherene provides instantly implementable tips and strategies for enhancing leadership effectiveness, increasing engagement and decreasing burnout, frustrations and miscommunications.