Self-care is your number one responsibility as a leader

If you’re in a leadership role, a key responsibility you have is taking care of yourself.

I’d never thought about this before, until one of my mentors pointed it out. I find this idea very challenging because it takes the wind out of all of my excuses for not fully embracing self-care. What excuse can I have really for not caring for myself?

In a way, self-care is my number one responsibility, because if I don’t take care of myself, it impacts seriously on my ability to do my job. The same is true for every leader. If you are not in control of your physical and mental health, how will you be able to lead effectively?

What you do is also very visible to the people you lead.  Your goal should be to model self-care. When your team sees you actively practising self-care, this sets the tone, even the culture, for the team, or for the whole organisation.

I’ve identified seven key dimensions of wellbeing which are illustrated in my Resilience Model of Workplace Wellbeing.

Each dimension has a role to play in your overall wellbeing. And although I’m talking about wellbeing at work, what happens outside of work also impacts on your wellbeing at work. Conversely, the fruits of wellbeing at work will flow into the rest of your life.

Working on each dimension of wellbeing in the wellbeing cycle will support you to experience the highest level of wellbeing that is possible for you. Of course, some people live with disability or chronic illness, which adds further challenges for you.

How are you?

How do you think you’re doing in each of the seven dimensions of wellbeing? Give yourself a score out of 10 for each one and you’ll get an idea of how you think you’re doing.

But how are you really doing? If you’d like to get a more objective perspective, take the Wellbeing Self-Assessment I’ve developed. It will take about 5 minutes and you’ll get instant feedback with your scores. The results might surprise you!

You will be able to see the dimensions where you are resilient and taking good care of yourself, and those where you need to improve. Of course, I encourage you to make a plan to work on your wellbeing. I’m plotting my own Wellbeing Plan right now as I write. But remember to be kind to yourself.

You probably know, from personal experience, that the best-laid plans sometimes come unstuck. Working on your wellbeing will inevitably shine a light on your resistance, your procrastination, and the stories you tell yourself about why you can’t actually make the changes you need to make.

I want to affirm that tackling your unhealthy habits, especially when they’ve been entrenched for a long time, is never easy. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve joined the gym, and stopped going, sometimes within only a few weeks! Take heart – change really is possible. I wrote about how to make changes that really stick when I was tackling my own unhealthy habits earlier this year.

Letting go of unhealthy habits is challenging but developing new healthy habits will be rewarding and life-affirming, if you’re ready and willing to commit.  The fruits of your efforts will include more positive mental states, better sleep, more energy, increased self-esteem, greater ability to focus, renewed enthusiasm for work, improved relationships – and better sex!

Even the smallest changes to support your wellbeing will make a difference. To help you get started, here are my tips on self-care, road-tested recently when I was recovering from COVID-19.

One of the most effective ways to embed a change is to take action first thing in the morning. Think about what your morning routine could be and give it a go. I feel refreshed and energised by getting outdoors and walking in nature, taking some quiet time to reflect, and eating my healthy breakfast later in the morning.

What’s your morning routine? Even better, what’s your Wellbeing Plan? Your leadership depends on it.

Maria Brett
The Growing Edge

Maria Brett is a former CEO and a Psychotherapist who has been a practitioner of mindfulness for more than 25 years. Maria’s Resilience Program helps participants improve their psychological resilience and wellbeing, and to thrive in the face of the complex challenges of the 21st century. To find out more, contact Maria.

© Maria Brett, 2022