How to Look After Your Leader 1: What, Why?

Leaders take responsibility. Responsibilities are lining up for you to love them every day; some invited, some that just crash in anyway. Some days you love them completely, it’s awe-inspiring and rewarding. Other times the pressure has you scanning for the nearest exit.

If you want to take on significant responsibility in a sustainable way, be it professional or personal, your number one leadership responsibility is looking after the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing of yourself, the leader of you.

And it can feel uncomfortable, as if prioritising yourself is in direct opposition to all the other important and urgent things. Your inner critic might have something to say about whether it’s OK to put yourself first when the clamour of competing priorities gets loud.

But listen here… Looking after your leader is not only in perfect alignment with you doing your best work in the world, it’s fundamental to your ability to do so.

So how do you look after your leader? Self care is an overused term and it can often be difficult to understand what it means to the person who’s using it. How do you know if you’re doing it right? What is enough self care? What does it take to keep showing up at your best, to make space for the times that isn’t possible, to ensure to the best of your ability that your own needs are met as they arise?

These are questions with many possible answers and questions that invite continuing exploration. There is no prescription. This is about practice. Your leader is a creature with subtle and changing needs and learning how to identify and meet them is the work of a lifetime. And it is an art worth cultivating for the sake of your beautiful life and all the people who rely on you, look to you and learn from you.

Our minds like easy answers, magic bullets and secret sauces, the best solution, the simple solution, the quick solution, the fashionable solution – and so someone is always selling those. And those answers often aren’t right for us. Caring for yourself doesn’t mean doing something you hate, that’s expensive or that hurts because someone else has told you it’s good for you. Maybe it’s good for them?

Poet Mary Oliver says it beautifully in Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

Looking after your leader requires listening, patience and a willingness to experiment. Stay with me for How to Look After Your Leader 2 and we’ll explore further.

If you have thoughts or questions on this article, I’d love to hear them. Drop me a line.