Leaders, Put your own mask on first.
Leadership is often seen as a selfless role, where the leader puts the needs of their team and organization ahead of their own. While this is certainly true to a certain extent, it is also important for leaders to take care of themselves before they can effectively help others on their journey to self-discovery. It is like when you fly and your told to “put your own mask on first” in case of an emergency. Why is this the direction given? Because you must be able to take care of yourself before helping others.
In this blog post, I want to explore why and how leaders should prioritize self-care, and how doing so can benefit both themselves and their teams. Time to put your own mask on first. Let’s begin this journey.
Why Leaders Should Prioritize Self-Care and put their own mask on first
Leading is a demanding job
Leadership is a demanding and often times stressful job. Leaders are often responsible for making difficult decisions, managing a team, and dealing with a wide range of personalities and perspectives. This can be emotionally taxing, and if leaders don’t take care of themselves, they can quickly become burnt out and unable to perform at their best. Keeping in line with the flight illustration and needing to put their own mask on first, to keep from passing out (burning out), if they don’t take care of themselves first others who need their help will not receive it because they will pass out.
Leading by example
Leaders are role models for their teams, and if they don’t prioritize self-care, it sends a message to their team that taking care of oneself is not important. By prioritizing self-care, leaders can model healthy habits and demonstrate to their team that it’s important to take care of oneself in order to be effective.
Leaders need to know and remember that their teams and potential team members are watching the examples that they live not just talk about. The saying of how “Talk is cheap”, is never more true than in situations like this. Our teams want to follow leaders who live what they share and not just preach from the roof tops through futile exercises of how we should live.
Improved decision making and being more productive
When leaders take care of themselves, they are better able to make clear, well-informed decisions. Self-care helps to reduce stress and anxiety, which can cloud judgment and make it difficult to see the big picture. By taking care of themselves, leaders are better able to approach problems with a clear mind and make decisions that are in the best interest of their team and organization.
There have been many great leaders throughout history who recognized the importance of self-care in order to be more productive and make better decisions. Here are a few examples:
- Winston Churchill – Churchill was known for his daily afternoon nap, which he believed helped him to stay alert and productive throughout the day.
- Theodore Roosevelt – Roosevelt was an avid outdoorsman and believed that spending time in nature was essential for his mental and physical health.
- Mahatma Gandhi – Gandhi was a strict vegetarian and practiced yoga and meditation daily in order to maintain his physical and mental well-being.
- Benjamin Franklin – Franklin was known for his daily routine, which included waking up early, exercise, and a healthy breakfast, which he believed helped him to be more productive and focused throughout the day.
- Queen Elizabeth II – Queen Elizabeth II is known for her strict daily routine, which includes regular exercise and a healthy diet, in order to maintain her physical and mental health.
How Leaders Can Prioritize Self-Care and Put their Mask on First
Make time for self-care
The first step in prioritizing self-care is to make time for it. This means carving out time in your schedule for activities that promote physical and emotional health, such as exercise, meditation, and hobbies. It’s important to treat self-care as a priority, rather than something that can be squeezed in if there’s time. I have always found that putting these type of activities on my calendar are a must. If they do not go on my calendar they will never get done. I must schedule these times with myself. I tend to only do things that come up on my calendar.
Another important aspect of self-care is setting boundaries. This means being clear about what you can and cannot do, and saying no when necessary. It’s important to remember that saying no is not a sign of weakness or failure, but rather a way to protect your time and energy.
Take care of your physical health
Physical health is an important aspect of self-care. This means getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and getting regular exercise. It’s also important to see a doctor regularly and take care of any health issues that arise. Now for complete transparency. If you were to ask my wife or kids how I personally do with this particular point, you would learn that I am definitely a work in progress. I must say, I am glad that putting your own mask on first is not all hinged on doing all of these perfectly.
Prioritize emotional health
Emotional health is just as important as physical health. This means taking time to engage in activities that promote emotional well-being, such as spending time with loved ones, practicing mindfulness, and seeking therapy or counseling when needed.
It’s important for leaders to take breaks from work and recharge their batteries. This can mean taking a vacation, going for a walk, or simply taking a few minutes to breathe deeply and relax. For me personally, this would look more like an early morning before anyone else gets up grabbing my cup of coffee and opening my iPad to use my Kindle app and reading while watching the sun come up. It could also be hanging out with any of my family members who would want to be out fishing on the bank with me.
Finally, leaders should seek support when needed. This can mean talking to a trusted friend or mentor or coach, seeking counseling, or simply reaching out to colleagues for help and support. It’s important to remember that asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but rather a way to stay strong and resilient.
In conclusion, taking care of oneself is an essential part of being an effective leader. Putting your own mask on first is duly the only way for survival. You and your team are worth putting your own mask on first.