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Why Managing Your Energy Makes You a Better Leader

Energy

“The best bridge between despair and hope is a good night’s sleep.” – E. Joseph Cossman 

This holiday season was different for me. I didn’t do the usual rush around, hit the malls, or over socialize. I intentionally stayed away from Fluency work (because it is always there) and distanced myself from my phone.  I connected with family, played board games, read, and binge-watched TV.  It helped that one of my holiday gifts was soft, comfy PJ’s…the kind that beckon you to lounge, relax and cozy up.  

This isn’t typical behaviour for an extrovert with embedded FOMO who’s always planning and doing. Relaxing doesn’t come easy to me, but I did it and I felt rested and re-energized.  

This was my version of self-care.  I felt I owed it to myself, my family, my biz partner Colin, and our clients to recharge my batteries and manage my energy so I can step into the new year invigorated and excited for what’s ahead.    

So, what’s your version of self-care for 2024?  How are you going to manage your energy?    

This topic is present for me as last year in particular, I witnessed many leaders who were feeling exhausted, stretched and overwhelmed.  Indeed, a survey we did in 2023 with communications and marketing leaders rated managing burnout and overwhelm as one of the top three challenges. The insidious part of burnout is we can’t recognize it, so we drive ourselves harder believing if we just get over this hill we can rest. The thing is, there’s always another hill, and another, and another.     

Energy is Good for the Heart and Mind  

So why am I talking about managing your energy and self-care in a leadership blog?   

As leaders, we have tremendous impact and influence with those we lead for better or worse. Our energy and emotional state are interconnected. They form a feedback loop with one influencing the other and they aren’t just contained within us.  Emotions are contagious.    

If we are feeling depleted, distracted, overwrought or irritable, that not only impacts our energy, focus and interactions, it also ripples out to the team.  If your team has to check in with each other to see if they’re getting the ‘Jekyll’ or ‘Hyde’ boss, that’s going to affect their morale, motivation, and productivity. Conversely, when you’re feeling positive emotions like enthusiasm and passion, you are more energized, exuding inspiration and motivation and can more effectively engage people.    

There’s also lots of research showing the link between managing our energy and better brain health. The usual suspects — sleep, exercise, nutrition, stress reduction– support brain health and optimize cognitive function (like memory, decision making, attention), neuroplasticity, emotional regulation, and overall mental well-being.   

Proper Selfishness  

One of my coaching clients said her biggest learning in 2023 was that self-care was not selfish.  She’s so right!    

In the book “The Threshold: Leading in an Age of AI” author Nick Chatrath introduces us to a term that took hold in the military called Proper Selfishness.    

He shares a story about Marines helping out after an earthquake in South America in the 1980’s.  

 After weeks of arduous physical relief work, one squad returned to their ship moored off the coast. Exhausted yet desperate to continue helping the local population, the squad leaders said to his commanding officer, “I need to get back out there now!” The officer calmly surveyed his colleague and responded “No you need to take rest. You are putting your own men in danger. Show some proper selfishness.”     

Many of us have a self-limiting belief that self-care is an act of selfishness. We think it’s selfish to take time for ourselves, to say ‘no’ to others, to relax for an hour in the evening, or go to bed earlier when there’s so much work to be done.     

But if we dig into the actual definition, selfishness is about putting yourself first at the expense of others or by disregarding others.  Chatrath makes the point that taking care of yourself as a leader is a critical ingredient in being able to take care of others.   

Three Strategies to Better Energy Management  

To show up as the leaders we want to be, we need to manage our energy. Beyond sleep, exercise and mindfulness, I offer three energy management strategies:     

1. Be Clear on What Matters: In his book “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less,” Greg McKeown emphasizes the importance of defining what truly matters to us. There’s so much to juggle in work and life that if we aren’t clear on what matters and why it matters, it will be impossible to distinguish ‘the vital few from the trivial many’. When we know what truly matters and what’s aligned with our values, goals and long-term vision, our priorities become clear, and we can let go of the stuff that doesn’t matter.   

What matters most to you?  

2. Set Boundaries: Work is like digging a hole in the sand. The more we do, the more it fills. Work is never done so we can’t let that be the boundary. We need to set our own work boundaries as no one is going to do that for us. Dr. Henry Cloud, psychologist and author of the book Boundaries, says having clearly defined roles and responsibilities and setting limits on workload and commitments are crucial for maintaining a healthy work-life balance, preventing burnout, and fostering productivity and satisfaction in the workplace.  

Where do you need to set boundaries?  

 3. Stop Playing the Martyr: If you are consistently sacrificing your own well-being, your time, or your own needs for the sake of others or the organization, you could be the martyr.  Martyrs are the ones that take on the extra assignments and work evenings and weekends. They assume they are the only ones who can do the task (even if it isn’t their responsibility) and they don’t delegate. They are also the ones who talk about being too busy and overwhelmed. Psychologists observe that this behavior often stems from a desire to be seen as indispensable or a desire to be praised for selflessness. Whatever it is, martyrdom is a one-way ticket to burnout and resentment.   

What martyrdom tendencies do you have? What’s one thing you could do differently?  

The camera is always rolling. As leaders, we are the role model and the energy source for our teams. If we aren’t taking care of ourselves, prioritizing, setting boundaries, managing our energy and emotions, we can’t expect to build and sustain a healthy, productive, high-performing team. People do as leaders do.   

Leaders who excel are leaders who understand the pivotal role energy plays in driving success, influencing teams, and maintaining personal satisfaction. 

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