The Power of Leadership

Executive Vitality™: Effective Leaders Avoid Burn-out

Leadership_Effectiveness_Cycle_of_Trust_Assume_Positive_IntentIn my experience, I have seen that certain things bear repeating. Here is one: There are 24 hours in a day for all of us – what differentiates productive leaders from burned out, overcommitted, and oppressed ones is how they use that time. Leaders cannot be effective if they are exhausted in mind and/or body. We have all seen the unraveling that can come from an executive pushing him/herself to do more, more, more.

Look at your calendar. Do you see your own name on it? What would be different if you made a commitment to yourself, the way you would commit to your direct reports, customers, peers, or boss?

I have long advocated “white space” on calendars for reflection and strategic, long-term thinking – this is an extension of white space. This is the vitality space and it is about finding the time for self-care in recognition of the fact that your own personal well-being is actually the core of your effectiveness as a leader.

You can’t be effective if you are exhausted. How can you find this time? How can you not?

  • Block off the time and “lock” it in your calendar. It will be uncomfortable at first. That is normal. Do it anyway.
  • Know when to say, “No.” No to stakeholder requests, no to meetings you don’t have to be at, no to a meeting that would take you away from an important family/personal commitment.
  • Set the tone and the expectation in your organization by asking people: Do I really need to be there? Do you (does your direct report) really need to be there? Can you delegate this meeting/task? Does this meeting or task reflect your vision, mission, values, strategy, important goals…or is it dispensable?
  • Ensure your team is ready to step up. That is a long-term commitment to coaching, mentoring, and supporting the growth of those reporting to you. Make yourself dispensable.

And, by the way, I hope you have read the abundant research that proves that no one can really get by on four or five hours of sleep – not if they want to perform optimally and experience executive vitality. If you haven’t, here is an interesting start: There’s a Proven Link Between Effective Leadership and Getting Enough Sleep from two McKinsey professionals, Nick van Dam and Els van der Helm, via Harvard Business Review, February 16, 2016. The latter author is McKinsey’s sleep specialist in Amsterdam. Yes, McKinsey has a job for a sleep specialist – that should tell us something!

Can you prioritize yourself as you would others and put yourself on your calendar? How can others help you achieve more “me-time”? And how can you promulgate that philosophy in your organization?

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