Being a great leader, every day, is a whole-life commitment. Yes, I’m serious. Leadership doesn’t start when you walk into the office and shut off when you walk out each day. To be a great leader you have to understand leadership from a holistic lens, and this can be especially difficult as women while our society tells us “We Can Have It All!”. 🤦🏻♀️
We’ve accepted this for so many different areas of our lives, but haven’t truly made the connection as leaders. We’ve realized we can’t love another fully without loving ourselves first, we can’t take care of our children the way we dream unless we take care of ourselves first, and we CANNOT be great leaders to our teams unless we are leading our own lives first.
Great leadership (not mediocre, bare minimum leadership) takes A TON of energy. And how do you cultivate enough energy to be a great leader? YEP, you take freakin care of yourself! The old school idea that you should be the first one to the office, the last one to leave, and (now in the digital age) answering your email at all hours like it’s a badge of honor is completely BACKWARDS. If there is anything you take from our friendship I hope this is it, DO NOT FALL INTO THIS TRAP! 🚨❌‼️
Okay, Now Take it From Some of the Most Influential Women
Thankfully, you don’t have to be a trailblazer in this arena. The most successful people in business have already realized this and many of them are huge advocates of self-care. Again, self-care is holistic. Self-care is NOT self-indulgence. It is being a leader in your own life which includes ensuring you are getting enough good sleep, getting exercise and activity, eating well, actively taking care of pain (physically and emotionally), nurturing your relationships inside and outside of the office, practicing your spirituality (whatever that may mean to you), and constantly course-correcting to stick to your values.
Read more from the trailblazers in this arena here; Sheryl Sandberg, Ariana Huffington, Marie Forleo & Latham Thomas, Oprah, and my newest girl crush, Jenna Kutcher. They practice self-love, self-care, and advocate (from the rooftops!) about things like sleep, balance, emotional healing, flexibility between work and family, battling grief, meditation, health, and more. I’m not the expert in all of these areas by any means, but I listen to their wisdom and I’ll share more about my journey in a few.
The other amazing part here is that all of this is backed by science! I came across this article with the Harvard Business Review called, “There’s a Proven Link Between Effective Leadership and Getting Enough Sleep” that hammers home the fact that to be great leaders we have to have full function of our pre-frontal cortex and without self-care, including sleep, we completely inhibit that part of our brain from functioning at its highest level. Another article I was reading from the Wall Street Journal states, “Some studies have even suggested that, if you go through a workweek while consistently sleep-deprived, you will finish the week with 15 fewer IQ points than you began it with.”
My Lady Boss Perspective
When I first started opening my mind to “self-care” beyond bubble-baths and massages, it all seemed a little hokey to me. But I figured, “What do I have to lose?” 🤷🏻♀️ So I tried several different things including a set sleep and wake time (even on the weekends), ensuring at least 7 hours of sleep every weeknight and never more than 9 hours in a night, eating better at least 5-6 days of the week, drinking less, getting at least 8,000 steps per day, meditating every day even for 5 minutes, getting regular acupuncture for my chronic back pain, joining my FIRST bible study ever, setting a date night with my husband every single week, and scheduling my work and play the same way in my calendar.
I DID NOT START THIS ALL AT THE SAME TIME. Some of these things I’d done sporadically through my life and some were brand new, but starting this year I picked 1-2 things to focus on each month and now I am THRILLED to share that all of these are now almost every day habits and I feel better than ever. In turn, I am a better leader than ever and am BY FAR the most productive I’ve ever been in my life.
Habits are SUPER hard to create and stick to, and I’m not going to focus on that in this blog, but as I’ve mentioned before Gretchen Rubin’s book, “Better Than Before”, has been a game-changer in my success of building and keeping these habits. (If you’ve read it, I’m an obliger – what are you?)
Each month that I added something new I was shocked to see the interconnectedness of all of these self-care habits. When I started getting at least 8,000 steps per day, my sleep became WAY more restorative (more REM than EVER and I’ve been tracking my sleep for YEARS!). And when I ate better I had way more energy to get my steps in each day. And so on and so forth – no seriously, they have all reinforced each other!
And guess what, I have accomplished more in the last 6 months than I have in years! I’ve always been a task-monster in my day-to-day but long-term goals have always been so much harder! Yet this year I’ve gotten my business off the ground, started losing weight after gaining about 30 lbs. slowly over the last 2 years, and have less chronic back pain than I have had since I was 13 years old (had to have back surgery at that age for aggressive scoliosis and still have a metal rod and screws fused into my spine).
But it’s not all roses and I still have things that I’m struggling with regularly. Gaining the weight over the last couple of years, I had almost completely given up on my outer appearance. And realized I was almost wearing that as a badge of honor because “what matters is on the inside”. While that’s true, that’s not why I was doing it. I was doing it because I am super unhappy with my body and have never lost weight or had healthy eating/exercise habits, so I don’t think I’m any good at it. And when I’m not good at something I completely avoid it. None of that is okay, or something a great leader does.
If you follow me on Instagram, you might have saw me talking about this on Saturday in my story, and I was terrified to share this with you because I want to be an example of strength, not insecurity. But I realized to be a great leader I have to take my own advice and stay on this holistic journey.
So this weekend I invested in my outer appearance, to match the hard work I’ve been doing on the inside. I chopped my hair off for the first time since I was 11, put in some tape-in extensions for thickness (my hair has thinned SO much lately!), got a lash lift, and bought a few pieces of jewelry and clothing to do a little refresh. And I have to say it feels GREAT!
While I don’t believe my worth, or yours, is in our looks, it is true that when you look good, you feel good! You don’t have to be a size 4, in fact I’m a size 12 right now, or have a certain size of lips – it’s about accepting and accentuating YOUR beauty, not hiding from it out of unhappiness. Just like I’m working to be advocate of self-care on the inside, I’m also going to work to be one of self-care on the outside. I worry I may not be the only one that hid behind the “my looks don’t matter” narrative because I was unhappy, and I also think many of us have gone to the other side of the spectrum and have become incredibly critical of those who unabashedly invest in their outward appearance. Not cool either, and in no way the qualities of a great leader.
Okay, I wanted to get into some mental health and relationships work I’ve been doing (and how that’s made me a better leader) but I’m going to save that for next week – let me know if that sounds interesting to you!
So What Now?
What’s been the self-care habit you want to practice on the reg?
Pick one, share it in the comments, commit to it for the month, and share it with a close friend or family member to ask for accountability! 🗣👯♀️
Talk soon! 👋🏻