Leadership Means Taking Care of Yourself

[May 27, 2020]  Leaders are essential to other people.  And since they are also vital to any team or group, leaders have a moral and leadership obligation to take care of themselves.  We don’t have to like our leaders or agree with them, but followers have an equal duty to remind leaders to care for themselves.

Leaders should take care of, help and be good to themselves the same way they would take care of, help, and be good to others they value.  Leaders, therefore, must conduct themselves habitually in a manner that allows some respect for their well-being — no alternative works.

“Imagine that a hundred people are prescribed a drug.  Consider what happens next.  One-third of them won’t fill the prescription.  Half of the remaining sixty-seven will fill it, but won’t take the medication correctly.  They’ll miss doses.  They’ll quit taking it early.  They might not even take it at all.” – Dr. Jordan Peterson, a psychologist at the University of Toronto.

Yet, unsurprisingly, leaders are notorious for not taking care of their health and spend little time and effort in a balanced life; physical fitness, mental rest and relaxation, proper nutrition, adequate sleep, and regular schedules.  We’ve all abused ourselves by focusing our work on the care of others while we ignore our minds and bodies.

“People are better at filling and properly administering prescription medication to their pets than to themselves.  That’s not good.  Even from your pet’s perspective, it’s not good.  Your pet (probably) loves you, and would be happier if you took your medication.” – Dr. Jordan Peterson

Leaders who treat themselves as if they were someone they were responsible for helping is good for others too.  I witnessed several military leaders taken out of the battle early in a military operation because they simply didn’t take proper care of themselves.  During the Second Battle of Fallujah, several Marine and Army officers I knew were MedEvac’ed out by helicopter after they failed to follow these principles.  The two most common mistakes were not drinking enough water and not getting enough rest.

Leaders must look to the future and think clearly.  A leader caring for himself can better share the load of the team, provide quick and reliable guidance, adapt swiftly, and enjoy mission success.  This act means improving upon one’s health, expanding your knowledge, and strengthening one’s body.

A leader begins by treating themselves as if they were someone they were responsible for helping.

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

19 thoughts on “Leadership Means Taking Care of Yourself

  1. JT Patterson

    Leaders who fail to care for their body and mind – regardless of how noble whatever else they are doing – will no longer be able to properly pursue their wants and needs. This leads to failure, despair, and misery for all.

    1. Newbie Yunger

      … and that is why a good balance in life is so important.

  2. Maureen S. Sullivan

    You would think this is common sensical but it’s not.

  3. Tony B. Custer

    I’m sure a believer and I learned it the hard way. Even though we know that work-life balance is a myth, work-life integration and prioritizing need the most time and attention. Agile leaders treat these principles with the same regard as the technical components of their work.

    1. Jonnie the Bart

      Thanks Tony, I do think that all of us have had a brush with failure when we didn’t take care of ourselves. I also had a boss who would force me to take vacation and only work 5 days a week. I was better for it.

  4. Joe Omerrod

    Stress also can cause physical ailments. I sure know from personal experience!!

  5. Otto Z. Zuckermann

    Leadership demands long hours and great effort, but rest and relaxation are just as essential as hard work. Go-getters often feel that every minute of every day must be filled with work, but that is just not a healthy way to live. Because more does not always mean better, a leader must learn to draw a hard line in the sand when asked to take on boundless responsibilities.

    1. Randy Goodman

      Correct, learning to say “no” can be a matter of self-preservation.

    2. Len Jakosky

      Leaders must take time for themselves, and they should not apologize or feel guilty for doing so.

      1. Ronny Fisher

        But we do and that is not so easily overcome. I know from personal experience when I once stayed at my work for 48 hours straight to fix a paperwork problem prior to a critical audit. It wasn’t my job to fix the problems but I did. i was sick later and missed a week of work.

  6. Janna Faulkner

    Hey everyone, this is a bit unrelated to the topic but I know each of you is always looking for a book or article or someone to tell us about something that makes us think. A recent book by Matt Ridley called “The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves (P.S.)” is a great read. Highly recommended.

    1. the ace

      Yes, written before the pandemic we currently face, but his very influential book about the innate human tendency to trade goods and services, which he argues is the source of all human prosperity.

    2. Bill Sanders, Jr.

      A true Renaissance man, Matt Ridley is a very smart man and should be read in his books to “see” what he sees and understand better about the human condition.

  7. Eric Coda

    Like on an aircraft when the emergency lights go on and the oxygen masks drop, we are told to put our own mask on first and only then help others. That’s because we can’t help others if we are incapacitated. Seems to be common sense but it’s not. We tend to do the opposite.

    1. Watson Bell

      Right, look after your body so that you have the energy to succeed at the right time and place.

    2. Tom Bushmaster

      1. Stay emotionally strong
      2. Get enough quality food and sleep
      3. Get married, have a family to support you and do by them right.
      4. Stay out of trouble with the law
      5. Control your weight
      Many more simple ways to take care of yourself.

      1. Greg Heyman

        Good list, thanks Tom. I would add a #6. Don’t abuse drugs or alcohol.

  8. Army Captain

    If you don’t care for yourself properly, as we know we should, then you will be out when you are most needed.

    1. Wendy Holmes

      We typically praise the person who is the last to leave the office and who works during weekends and holidays. Often, however, that person is the first to fall in the war of workplace attrition.

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