There’s no doubt about it: leadership is hard work and there are so many theories, courses, and tips out there asking us to lead in a particular way. And while leadership naturally asks us to evolve, pivot, and renegotiate what that role means and how it should be executed, we also have to make sure we’re carving out time to rest and replenish ourselves. Yes, model vulnerability, compassion, understanding, and active listening and extend that same care toward yourself.
With so many tasks, long and short-term responsibilities, fostering a healthy work environment and supporting employees, attending to our own needs as leaders can fall by the wayside. So, let’s take a look at four tips for resting, replenishing, and renewing your energy so that you can feel better and better lead.
In an article for Inc., Executive Chairman and Co-Founder of Nav, Levi King describes, “emotional and psychological energies as metaphorical buckets, one in each had, filled with water.” King goes on to note that, “When my buckets are empty, I’m not going to be as thoughtful, and my decision making isn’t going to be as sharp.” So, what empties your buckets? Maybe it’s enforcing unnecessary policies like strict dress codes or unwieldy payment processes. Identifying what’s draining allows you the space to delegate, and to create space to rest, which is why it’s the essential first step.
Once you’ve identified what depletes your emotional and psychological energies, it’s time to delegate. If you’ve got policies and procedures that cannot be adjusted or changed, that are essential to the operation of the business, but eat up all your time and energy, you’ve got to delegate those responsibilities. In a Forbes article, Founder of UassistME.CO, Alfredo Atanacio explains that, “How well you delegate is directly reflected in how empowered your employees feel, which strengthens their skills, their decision-making abilities and, ultimately, their productivity.” So, while distributing the work is not only beneficial to the work environment as a whole, it also frees up space for you to innovate and rest as you need to. It’s important to develop a culture of trust by fostering the growth and leadership skills of your employees just as you trust in your own growth and ability to lead. Choose people you know will be a good fit for the role or responsibility and gift yourself that room to breathe.
As a leader, you may be constantly juggling a packed worked schedule with meetings, emails, deadlines, and more. Think about the quality of leadership you seek to model. There is a dangerous lure within our capitalistic society to work ourselves to the bone, to relish being able to demonstrate how hard you can grind to get the job done. It’s even sometimes seen as a badge of pride to relinquish sleep in favor of completing a task. There are also leaders who may get to bed on time, but cannot get a good night’s sleep due to work-related issues. The Center for Creative Leadership reports that, “nearly 1 out of 4 [leaders] reported that work-related issues kept them awake at least a few nights a week […] In the study, the inability to psychologically detach from work was one of the biggest predictors of sleep problems,” which further emphasizes the need for a scheduled sleep routine. Maybe that means you turn off all devices a half an hour before you want to go to sleep, or maybe you’re starting a meditation or creating a calm environment with soothing music. Find out what works for you and make that part of your routine. It’s also important to use your vacation time if you have it. You have to be able to step away in order to unplug and refresh your energy. On an even smaller scale, you could be intentional about your lunch breaks. Don’t work through lunch, for example, and instead choose to take that time for a short walk or eat your lunch outside away from work-related distractions. Carving out time for yourself takes work and practice, but it can deepen your connection to yourself and thereby improve your leadership capabilities.
Leadership isn’t formulaic, it’s complex and ever-evolving, which is part of why it’s so difficult. As a leader you have to embrace push-back, learn, and grow just like your employees. You’re going to mess it up sometimes and that’s okay. Give yourself room to take a step back, rest, and try again. The most powerful leaders are both reflective and fallible. You are human, after all. Replenishing your energy means that you have to care enough about yourself to do so, to practice self-compassion. You can ask for support, seek rest, and still lead.
So, how will you listen to yourself, delegate, rest, and invest in self-compassion today?