We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are. – Max De Pree
In 2015, leaders need to first and foremost do this one thing: take care of themselves.
Every day, I get to interact with great leaders on both personal and professional levels. I am privileged to know leaders at global companies, small businesses and not-for-profits. Every leader I know seems to be deferring their own wellbeing for their commitment to their work. It sounds noble and if you’re a leader, you know it is easy to do, but if you want to truly maximize your leadership and be a “level 5 leader,” as Jim Collins would put it, you have to put yourself in a position to be mentally, physically, academically, financially and culturally well.
In today’s world that is just not happening.
One way I work on this is by having a management coach. For some reason, that often makes people really uncomfortable. If I told you I spent thousands of dollars a year on a golf coach, most of you would think it was awesome and that I am really dedicated to the game. But, when I tell people I spend $1,000 a year on a leadership coach, they think there must be some kind of deficiency in my leadership. It’s not about that at all. In fact, it is about getting better and being proactive, not reactive. For me, my leadership coach is a lot about my own wellness, about holding myself accountable to the commitment I have made to myself, my family and others and making sure I am in a position to lead well.
There are usually two main things a leader can do to derail their leadership: a moral failure that damages a leader’s integrity and reputation or a financial failure that damages the sustainability or profitability of the organization. But, there is also a third thing that often gets overlooked and that is failure to take care of themselves as leaders. We have seen repeatedly where a leader has a health crisis or a personal relationship crisis that shuts down an organization and it has nothing to do with a moral or financial issue. Why is this third reason rarely addressed?
As a leader, I feel incredible responsibility for the people that work on our team and I understand that the decisions I make not only affect them and how they do their jobs, but it affects their personal lives as well. My decisions affect their ability to pay their mortgages or grow their families. As leaders, that can be a huge burden and cause real wellness issues. That burden isn’t necessarily going anywhere, which is one of the reasons why it is critical that we take care of ourselves the way we want our teams to take care of themselves.
Leaders, please use this next year to build your own capacity. I believe you each know what that thing or things are for you. I encourage you to get a management coach, or invest in your leadership through great books and education. I encourage you to take care of your physical health and take a vacation from time to time. Take good care of yourself so that you can also take good care of those that are important to you: your families, the people you work with and the people you serve.
Question: What do you need to do in 2015 to better care for yourself? What is stopping you?