What it Really Takes to Lead

I’m a big fan of the Richard Branson quote “If you take care of your employees, they’ll take care of the clients” but I believe he missed a step. As a leader, you cannot take care of your employees if you do not take care of yourself.

No matter how well you think you’re hiding your stress, I promise you, people are picking up on it. Maybe it’s your peers, your team, your partner or your friends; but someone is aware that you’re not quite as calm as the image you’re trying to present.

You know that you want to support your team. You know that taking care of your employees is essential to them taking care of your clients, but stress happens and it has a cost.

Trying to hide stress isn’t working and you know stress-free living isn’t exactly a realistic possibility, so what’s the solution? Kindness, specifically self-kindness, is key. To reduce your own stress, so that you can take care of your employees or team, requires self-kindness – taking care of yourself.

But I’m so busy, there’s no possible way I could fit in one more thing. I get it, and I hear that often. I’ll counter by asking, “What happens if you don’t take care of yourself?” If you’re not sure how to answer that question, I’ll point you to Arianna Huffington’s story of burnout. You know, the one where she woke up in a pool of her own blood after passing out from exhaustion. Yeah, that’s what happens…and while that may be an extreme example, other things that happen include snapping at people unintentionally (kids, partner, family, friends, peers), forgetting commitments, not being able to fall asleep at night, not being able to get up in the morning, habitual lateness…I could go on.

Kindness is key, and taking care of your employees so they can take care of the clients, requires self-kindness. Next time you’re thinking about working through lunch or getting up early to do some work before going to work, consider your stress level. If it’s teetering on the edge of burnout, what’s the smallest step toward self-kindness you can take in that moment? Even if it’s a 5 minute walk to get a sandwich instead of skipping lunch altogether, start there. These baby steps of self-kindness will help you be the kind of leader you desire to be.

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