“For leaders to take care of others, they must first take care of themselves” – unknown

Leaders, you don’t hear and acknowledge this enough: you possess so many admirable qualities and characteristics, but one that stands out, and which sets you apart from others, is your selflessness. It’s your selflessness that enables you to put the needs of your team before own, and to act in the best interests of your people and company goals and objectives – always! 

Most businesses would not survive if it weren’t for their leaders. Few individuals would be mentally and emotionally equipped to lead groups of people through any and all circumstances and do so with a smile on their face.

But while you are there to lead, offer support and encourage your people to remain strong and positive, you need to recognise that these are extraordinary times, and you’re human too. Being the best leader you can be to your people is important to you, but being the best leader begins with taking care of you first. And yes this may go against all you know a great leader to be, but haven’t you heard the saying ‘you cannot pour from an empty cup?’ That’s exactly why you need to acknowledge just how much you’ve been through too, and how important it is to fill your own cup every now an then. 

Here are 5-self care tips that are sure to make you an even BETTER leader (if that’s possible!)

1. Set boundaries

Everyone needs to set boundaries; no matter who you are or what your role. Even though, as a leader, you want to be available to your people at all times, and be their guide and support whenever they call on you (especially during times like these), it’s in fact unhealthy to place expectations like these on yourself. It’s important your team knows not to place these kinds of demands on you either. Yes, you are absolutely available to your people and are more than willing to guide and support, but make sure it’s within reason and at a time that’s best for you. This will ensure you avoid feeling depleted – there’s a lot going on right now and there’s many more problems than usual. Healthy boundaries in times as stressful as these are critical!  Being too available to your people actually does them an injustice, because they’re not learning to exercise their problem-solving skills nor learning how to take initiative. If you feel there’s too much on your plate don’t be afraid to delegate responsibilities or leave some things for a better time. 

Types of boundaries and how to implement them

Emotional: topics of conversation you’d prefer not to be a part of (gossiping, emotional dumping, tattling on colleagues).

E.g. “I’d prefer not to be a part of this discussion.”

Material: The treatment and use of possessions.

E.g. “Materials used in this workshop can’t be copied and reproduced.

Time/energy: Boundaries around time, punctuality, when to contact, favours etc.

E.g. “If you’re going to be late, please alert me in advance.”

Mental/spiritual: Freedom of thought and opinion.

E.g. “I respect you disagreeing with my opinion, and please don’t force your own.

Physical: unwanted physical touch or comments regarding appearance, gender, orientation or sexuality.

E.g. “I don’t find comments like that funny or appropriate.”

2. Take a break

Take time for yourself to relax and rejuvenate – and no, not just on weekends. We’re talking about closing your laptop and forgetting about your emails after the working day; and take your lunch breaks and even the leave that’s owed to you! Taking time to calm your mind, move your body, explore your hobbies and enjoy quality time with family and friends will in fact make you a better leader. It’s during times of rest that ideas come to the fore, and it’s the only time our minds properly process complex situations. You’ll find that by relaxing and switching off regularly you’ll be better at problem solving and even more creative in your thinking.

3. Talk to a professional

Talking to a professional doesn’t mean you’re a failure, in fact it means the total opposite. It means you’ve acknowledged just how much better you can be, as a person and as a leader, with a bit of guidance and someone to help you see different perspectives. It takes strength and humility to push back on the narrative that leaders are/have to be invincible.You are human too, and recognising that you need to take care of yourself to be able to take care of others is the first step to becoming the best leader you can be. Leadership roles often demand you get caught up in the detail. But it’s important to see the bigger picture sometimes – whether it’s work-related or personal. This way, you’re able to make better decisions, solve problems effectively and efficiently and equips you with the fuel you need to lead extraordinarily. 

4. Create a healthy morning routine

A healthy morning routine is so important and yet so very underrated. It sets the tone for the rest of your day, and as a leader, especially, I’m sure you favour productive, positive days. Starting off with some time to get your thoughts together, and beginning your day on a positive, peaceful note is key to taking on any challenges the day has in store. Most influential leaders recommend morning meditations or a run or walk to inhale the fresh morning air, clear the mind and move the body. Everyone’s morning ritual is different, so you’d have to discover what’s best for you – but it’s well worth it! 

5. Reflect

It helps to reflect on the ups and downs at the end of each day or week. This will help you to learn from each obstacle and celebrate each win. During demanding times it’s so easy to just keep going without stopping to think about all that has happened during the day, week or month. Without reflecting, it’s difficult to learn and make changes, but more importantly, it’s difficult to recognise what you need – and remember your needs need to be met for you to give of your best to others.

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