23 Feb 2021

Top 10 tips for looking after yourself as a leader


The nature of being a great leader is looking after others and enabling them to be at their best which means motivating, inspiring, building trust, being decisive and making difficult decisions.

Being a leader is a privilege, but the responsibility of leadership especially through challenging times is significant and it can take its toll on wellbeing and energy levels leading to overwhelm and burnout.

However despite this pressure and stress, leaders are often very resistant to taking time for themselves but it is now time to see ‘self-care' as an investment and necessity. As well as the wellbeing benefits, studies show that taking time out can renew motivation and focus, increase productivity and creativity, improve learning and prevent decision fatigue.

So what should you be doing as a leader to look after yourself:

  1. Take time out - you might feel like you need to be working every hour of the day to keep on top of things but everyone need time away from work. So turn off your computer (and your phone), take a break and you will be so much more productive for it as well as setting a tone for others in your team to do the same.
  1. Reflect, learn and move on - we will never get everything right as leaders and often we can spend too much time dwelling on our past mistakes or what we could have done better which distracts us from moving forward. Spend time reflecting, learn from this and understand what you will do differently next time and then move on.
  1. Diarise time for you - put some time in your diary every day to do something for you, even just 10 minutes a day focusing on what makes you happy or what you enjoy- there is more to life than just work.
  1. Get the basics right - our wellbeing can have a big boost just by having a healthy diet, drinking plenty of water and getting better and quality sleep, even small changes in these areas can make a big difference.
  1. Reach out for help - you are not the only one who will be struggling and if you do find yourself overwhelmed, reach out to others who can help - this could be fellow leaders or colleagues, a coach or mentor, friends or family members or seeking professional support - don't ever be afraid to seek the help you need.
  1. Move - research shows just a 15 minute walk a day can reduce stress levels, support our mental health, enhance energy levels and improve cognitive function.
  1. Keeping an optimistic mindset - we will all face challenges and have a bad day, but try to see the good in every situation and finish each day by thinking about one positive thing that has happened that day.
  1. Take one day at a time - try not to focus on the next week or month and how much you have to do, take each day as it comes and define what you need to achieve that day by breaking down large pieces of work into more manageable tasks.
  1. When are you at your best - think about the times when you were at your very best, what were you doing, what support did you have, what was your environment like and try to replicate this when times get really challenging.
  1. Say no - just because you are in a position of leadership doesn't mean you need to say ‘yes' to everything and when we try to do too much we are more likely to not do anything well. Recognise it is ok to say ‘no' and focus on your priorities and the areas that are going to make the biggest difference to you and your organisation.

As leaders, we often feel that we need to be everything to everyone, but we are all human and looking after ourselves need to be a priority. By investing in your wellbeing you become the best version of yourself, become healthier and happier and you will also inspire those around you to do the same.

Gemma Carter-Morris
Director of Wellbeing
Next Steps Consulting