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What Does Personal Wellness Have To Do With Leadership Effectiveness?

By Lisa Hunter

SAT JUL 11, 2020

Have you ever found yourself coaching one of your employees or someone in your family to take better care of themselves to improve their job, family, and personal satisfaction? If you have found yourself doing this, you are likely also aware of your own wellness plan, or lack thereof. By now, most of us understand the link between stress, burnout, and our ability to be effective. Yet, we struggle with a consistent practice that truly prioritizes our personal wellness.

I have seen this play out time and time again in my own life. In addition to my struggles, I have watched some amazing leaders who seem to have it together on the outside, crumbling on the inside from the toll being a high profile leader can take. Physical symptoms start to show that we subscribe to age, but are actually stress taking root in our physical and emotional body. Activities and habits begin to form that seem like “fun” ways to de-stress but then turn into unhealthy habits to numb our emotions such as overeating, drinking too much alcohol, excessive shopping, etc.

Mini-vacations and massages are nice, but they are usually short-term solutions. A long-term sustainable approach consists of daily strategies that help us thrive in a complex environment. I’m not saying that vacations and massages shouldn’t be part of your wellness plan. However, without a more comprehensive approach, you may not experience the maximum benefits of these actions. The problem can even be magnified when you return from a vacation. The “relaxation effect” is gone as soon as you return to your home or work environment. We can be left feeling frustrated because “we are supposed to be relaxed.”

Why Do Leaders Struggle?

Leaders struggle with their ability to maintain focus on their personal wellness for a variety of reasons. Do you resonate with any of the thoughts below?

  • “I don’t have time”
  • “I will sleep when I’m dead”
  • “Self-care is selfish”
  • “Self-care is a sign of weakness”
  • “If my ____________ sees me doing X, they won’t respect me as much they do now”
  • “I don’t know what else to do. I’m already getting a monthly massage”
  • “My mind is too busy to sleep”
  • “I have too much work to do”
  • “I will miss out on other fun things”
  • “I want it all. I can do it all”
  • “No pain, no gain”
  • “I’m too ____ to change”
  • “I don’t have enough _______ or otherwise I would totally have a wellness plan”
  • “My team needs me”
  • “My family needs me”

Benefits of a Personal Wellness Plan

Prioritizing your personal wellness will not only improve your leadership, but it will increase your resiliency and help you sustain your effectiveness. You cannot pour from an empty cup, and waiting until your cup is empty is too late. If the symptoms of an empty cup show up as burnout, you risk losing your motivation, joy, and fulfillment in a role or responsibility that you once loved. Symptoms in your physical body can lead to a path of constant pain and injury management.

Leading with heart requires that we bring our whole, authentic, and best selves to our life’s work. Regular attention to personal well-being must be a part of a sustainable and resilient leader’s toolbox.