As a leader, how do you stay sharp and energized?
In studying great leaders, three habits seem to support this, with some of these leaders having taken it to a science.
What are these three habits, and how can you capitalize on the experience of the greats?
Reading to Nourish Your Leadership Lens
Great leaders read daily. Bill Gates reads about 50 books yearly. He told Time magazine that reading is essential for success. Elon Musk shares that reading is what taught him how to build rockets. Warren Buffett, who reads about 500 pages daily, says, “That’s how knowledge works. It builds up like compound interest.”
I agree. Whatever you feed your brain is what it uses to operate. This is true for the food you eat and the information you absorb. If you are not taking the time to ingest new information to keep learning and to help you make best decisions, you are not growing. Stagnant leadership is dying leadership.
Here are tips to begin your reading habit.
- Research what some of the great leaders are reading. Then do likewise. You can expand from there.
- Set a timer. This is a habit to feed your brain, just like exercise is a habit to keep your body in shape. Begin with 30 minutes and set a timer so that you can focus on what you are reading.
- Read three chapters before you decide whether you will finish the book. Sometimes you will begin a book that is just not inspiring. When this happens, give it three chapters just to make sure, and then set it aside for another if the selection is stale.
Rituals to Stay Grounded in Turbulent Times
Rituals are as old as mankind. There are many kinds of rituals, such as those that increase confidence or ease grieving. There are those that signify an end or beginning to a life chapter. You and I may have personal rituals including actions such as wearing lucky socks before a big event. Rituals are cultural markers that involve activity tied to some sort of meaning. The wonderful thing about these is that they can also provide grounding and a sense of control.
Arianna Huffington is one leader who firmly believes in ritual. In fact, under her direction, the Huffington Post offers regular yoga and meditation classes, as well as nap rooms, to its employees. Building in one of these activities on a regular basis serves to bring balance and well-being to those who participate. Richard Branson claims he does his best thinking when he adds the ritual of movement, such as taking a walk.
Here are some ideas for you as you think about establishing your own rituals.
- Decide how you would like to celebrate. Is it important to you to celebrate accomplishments? Important dates? Identify what is meaningful to you and then develop a ritual to mark the event.
- Identify how you will center yourself. Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is a wonderful way to calm anxiety or quiet the world. Developed by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn in the 1970s at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, MBSR was originally intended for people suffering from anxiety, depression, and pain. It has proven incredibly successful, and today, is also taught in almost every community as a way to alleviate stress and develop mindfulness.
- Practice sharing a meaningful ritual with others so that it becomes part of your company or family culture. Sharing brings a sense of belonging and connection which is powerful and sorely needed in today’s world.
Replenishing the Leadership Engine
Rest is key for rejuvenation and to re-energize. Just as your car needs energy to operate, so do you. Are you truly getting the quality and amount of sleep you need? Sleep deprivation interferes directly with focus and executive reasoning. This means your performance – and that of your business, in turn – is at stake.
McKinsey conducted a study of 196 business leaders and discovered that two-thirds were dissatisfied with the quantity of sleep they got, and 55% were not happy with the quality of their sleep. Yet, the compelling evidence shows that a lack of sleep on the part of a leader directly impacts organizational performance. What can you do about this?
Here are some tips to get you started on the road to better sleep habits.
- Target the optimal seven to nine hours of sleep per night. If you have claimed in the past that you “only need six hours” or whatever your number is, you need to let that idea go. Experts show that anything less than seven hours is simply not enough, and you are systematically weakening your brain and body’s abilities to function over time.
- Keep your bedroom cool and the lights off. Any compromise to darkness will compromise a sound sleep. This includes removing your cell phone from the bedroom. The stress and stimulation it represents, in addition to the blue light it gives off when alerts come through, is enough to interfere with your ability to relax and stay asleep.
- We have all heard that best sleep hours occur before midnight, so one should go to bed early. Yet many of us may be nocturnal or find this impractical. Decide the block of time that is right for you, and then allot enough time to meet your sleep quota.
Staying sharp means discipline. And discipline is what we see the best leaders reflect as they make change around the world. Taking the time to develop this will mean the difference between good and great. As you review the three lifestyle habits of best leaders above, where will you start?
© Patti Cotton and patticotton.com. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that attribution is made to Patti Cotton and patticotton.com, with links thereto.
Patti Cotton helps executives optimize their effectiveness in leading self, others, and the enterprise. Her areas of focus include confidence, leadership style, executive presence, effective communication, succession planning, and masterful execution. With over 25 years of leadership experience, both stateside and abroad, Patti works with individuals, teams, and organizations across industries, providing executive consulting, leadership development, succession planning, change management, and conflict resolution. She is also an experienced Fortune 500 speaker. For more information on how Patti Cotton can help you and your organization, click here.