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The world is in the throes of the biggest crisis since the last century. Business leaders have had to lead their organisation in unchartered territories that are rife with fear, uncertainty and trauma. Leaders are worrying about how to keep their businesses operational. They’re having sleepless nights about the debt they are incurring as a result of the crisis and the cost of it. All the while keeping their employees calm, engaged and productive.

Employees look to them for direction. Peers look to them support but who is looking after the leader? Leadership roles are often the loneliest ones and I can only imagine them being even lonelier in these tough times we are facing. Self-care, physically and emotionally, becomes really crucial for today’s leader– if their tank is empty, they can’t carry or take anyone anywhere.

The crisis the world is in has left leaders with a long list of things to do at breakneck pace. This often leaves very little room for a leader to just be. There are four things that today’s leader can be to start refilling that tank.

  1. be self-aware – know thyself. Having a good handle on what is going on inside and what the limits are will help a leader keep a finger on their own pulse. This way, they can quickly pick up signs of burn out or the need to change direction.
  2. be reflective – find space in the day to reflect on the day’s events and regain perspective. I find journaling particularly helpful. I know someone who writes themselves letters. Another evaluates the day then draws the highlight of their day. These are just examples of ways that a leader can wring out all that they soak in, to create space for more the next day.
  3. be purposeful and values-led – personal and organisational purpose and values are a leader’s compass. In times of crisis, these ensure that the leader stays on course and not get lost in the role, situation or environment they find themselves in. In their reflective practice a leader can ask themselves if they fulfilled their purpose or lived their values that day.
  4. be vulnerable – it takes great strength to be vulnerable, yet many strong leaders view this as a sign of weakness. Appropriate displays of emotion can be assuring to the team and be an effective tool for change. In sharing vulnerability, the leader can let people know that though the situation is fraught with emotions, it is containable. It also shows solidarity with people who are feeling the same way.

In this article, my starting point for looking after a leader is self-directed. Those around leaders can be supportive too. There are many ways that we can look after our leaders and perhaps the topic of another blog. For now I will leave you with two questions that you can ask to look after the leader around you.

  • change the question “how are you?” to “How are you finding / coping / managing / feeling….” This will help move the conversation away from the standard and automatic response, “I’m fine / OK /good” and solicits are a more in depth response and hopefully the start of a great conversation.
  • ask “what can I do to help you”, “what can I take off your plate to enable you to catch a breath” in recognition that leaders also need help. This could be as simple as fetching them a coffee and having a chat for five minutes or taking over a task.

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