As a leader it is easy to get so focused on looking after, and developing your people that you forget to work on yourself. I am a fan of Michael Gervais’ podcast Finding Mastery. Gervais is a sport and performance psychologist who works closely with Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks and has worked with a number of top performers in high consequence environments. I have heard him say that the three areas we can improve and work on are: Mind – Body – Craft. As a leader, what are you doing to develop your mind, body and craft?
In order to continually perform at the highest level as a leader you need to make sure you look after your mind. Getting consistent, quality sleep is critical to your mental health and brain health. The research is very clear that neuroplasticity is something that we have the ability to access throughout our entire life. Andrew Huberman PhD, a professor of Neurology and Ophthalmology at the Stanford School of Medicine says that neuroplasticity is the result of deep focus and adequate rest, and stresses the important role of sleep in neuroplasticity. BrainHQ is an evidenced based brain training platform developed by Michael Merzenich PhD, who is considered by many as the father of the brain plasticity movement, to help foster brain plasticity. Mindfulness is a practice that has a lot of benefits to leaders and I would encourage you to research the practice of Mindfulness. Imagery is a powerful tool you can use as a leader to help prepare your mind for where your body may have to go. In his book Lead Yourself First Michael Irwin talks about the importance of solitude for leaders. Solitude is scary to many people, including many leaders, but as Irwin discusses can have tremendous benefits. Alzheimer’s Disease is something that scares a lot of people. The experts I have listened to suggest that Alzheimer’s is 98% preventable. The key to prevention is lifestyle so make sure you look after your mind and your body.
You need to look after you physical health. If you are continually sick, tired and unhealthy then you are not going to be able to best serve the people you have the privilege to lead. Sleep is critical here as are activity and nutrition. It is easy as a busy leader to make excuses why you do not have the time to workout regularly and how hard it is to eat healthy with your demanding schedule. Healthy people understand the importance of looking after their mental and physical health and make both a priority. Insulin resistance is a major health issue in our world and the experts on Type 2 Diabetes suggest the evidence is very clear that it is a lifestyle disease, completely preventable and completely reversible. I have found InsulinIQ to be a resource that has helped me sort through all the information and allow me to dial in my eating and allow me to become insulin sensitive. I also highly recommend the book Why We Get Sick, by Ben Bikman PhD, a professor at BYU and one of the founders of InsulinIQ.
You owe it to yourself, your family and the people you lead to look after yourself and strive to create a healthy lifestyle. The key is to create rituals around your health that are consistent and non-negotiable. If you travel for work create rituals for when you are home and rituals for when you are on the road, both of which focus on your health to ensure you stay healthy even when you are travelling.
Craft is your professional competencies and your leadership skills. You need to become a student of leadership in order to enhance your knowledge and understanding of leadership principles, and you need to be a practitioner of leadership to continually hone and develop your leadership practice and skills. Leadership is part art, and part science and it is a practice; something you need to practice and work on daily. Participating in a leadership workshop like Dare to Be Great: Strategies for Creating a Culture of Leading either online or in person is a great start, now work on making it a practice. Regularly reading books on leadership and listening to leadership-focused podcasts can be important aspects of the practice. It is important to put what you are learning into practice, get feedback, do self-reflection, learn, refine and repeat. The moment you think you have become a great leader you are in danger of sliding into mediocrity and becoming irrelevant as a leader so keep striving to improve.
Leadership is hard work. That hard work starts with working on you and leading yourself. Ask yourself, “Where might the smallest change make the biggest difference?” and start there. Chunk things down. Reading leadership books for 10 minutes every day will result in you reading 10 to 12 books a year. Workouts do not need to take 2 hours. Short, intense workouts supplemented with activity during the day such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator even if it is just the last 4 floors to your 20th floor office, parking further away so you get in extra walking, taking a 15 minute walk after each meal, standup team meetings or walking meetings are all options. Mindfulness is something you can practice throughout the day and meditation, a mindfulness tool, can be as short as 5 minutes. Breath work can be built in throughout the day.
In order to best lead others, work on yourself daily.
Remember that leadership is a choice and a journey and it starts with you. Choose well, keep learning and enjoy the journey. The Dare to Be Great: Strategies for Creating a Culture of Leading online workshop was created for aspiring leaders and frontline leaders to help you on your leadership journey.