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Leader Health: How well-being is the foundation of consistently great leadership (Part 1)

Feeling fried or drained, having brain fog, or needing to knock out the cobwebs are phrases we have all heard ourselves or our colleagues say. Have you felt like this and tried to make an important decision, find a creative, solution or have a difficult performance management conversation with someone on your team? It's not easy, and it's certainly more challenging than it has to be. Great leadership day-in and day-out is tough to master and sustain on its own without having to overcome depleted physical and mental reserves.

I've led meetings and taught classes when I wasn't at my physical or mental best, and in those moments, I was not an exemplary leader. I may have been good enough, but I guarantee that I wasn't inspirational or a great listener, facilitator, improviser, etc. ... you get the picture. But is that what any of us want as leaders? I doubt it.

What is the takeaway here? Are experiences of being at less than our best just an inevitable part of the ebb and flow of everyday work and leadership? My answer is an emphatic NO. These experiences should be anomalies rather than regular occurrences. We all have bad days, and being human and authentic leaders means that we need to embrace our fallibility, but we all can be sharp and lead effortlessly every day.

We can use health and well-being as a foundation for consistently great leadership. We all "know" what is healthy. Still, it would be natural to think in our modern business environment that things like play, rest, quality sleep, time with family, and time to enjoy a nutritious meal are an opportunity cost. That time spent on these healthy activities is time not being productive.

Technically, you'd be right. Time spent on healthy activities does mean time not producing, but production is not the same as productivity. In fact, to consistently be in a state of productivity where we're solving problems, making sound decisions, and listening and empathizing, we have to have deep reserves of energy, stamina, resilience, and many other mental and physical resources.

In this series of articles, I will share with you the science and practice of well-being as the foundation of consistently great leadership. I will also share with you why health and wellness are not an opportunity cost but a multiplier for leadership. Stay tuned for more.

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