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Being a good leader is all about you

At the moment I’m working with a client who’s going through something which parallels a situation I dealt with when I was a manager. She asked what I would have done differently, and without needing to think about it, I said I would have put better support systems in place for myself.  Granted, at the time I did have a right hand person, without whom I would have been have lost, however the support systems ended there.

I took everything else on myself because it didn’t even cross my mind that I should consider anything else!

Now, several years later, this is a topic of conversation that I am repeatedly having with my clients, as well as peers and friends.  How well are we supporting ourselves?  As managers, we are so busy getting things done we lose sight of priorities – the most fundamental of which is our own wellbeing.

If I was to rate myself on how well I supported myself when I was a manager, I’d give myself a 2 or 3 out of 10. Today, I’d give myself an 8.

Some might consider this selfish behaviour– there’s so much to do – quit focusing too much on yourself! This thinking is all wrong.  Let’s think about what organisations are looking for.

When’s the last time you read a job description looking for a manager who was ‘required to bully the team into submission – ideal candidate will be highly stressed and irritable with poor listening skills and ability to make team members feel alienated and unappreciated a distinct advantage”.

Really, who wants a burnt out martyr?

And so back to my original question: how do we get to that elusive 9 or 10?

The answer is quite straightforward.  Ironically the better we support ourselves, the more we can challenge ourselves and the more we can actually achieve. It works along the same lines as the support / challenge matrix I blogged about previously

If I don’t take care of myself, I can’t give my best to others – it’s as simple as that.

I think about wellbeing in terms of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual (by spiritual I mean a sense of purpose/meaning).

Some questions to think about: Are you eating well? Do you exercise regularly? Are you getting enough rest? How do you ‘switch off’ from work and clear your head? Do you have a network of people that you trust that you can call on to talk depending on the situation at hand (friend, colleague, mentor, coach)? Do you have a strong right hand person? Do you have or are you developing a team that requires direction and support rather than command and control?

Here’s a nice exercise to try:  In four quadrants (physical etc) list all the things you are currently doing to support your wellbeing. Then rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10 in each quadrant (1 is low, 10 is high).  Identify one thing you can change or one activity you can add to each quadrant that would move that rating towards 10. Commit to taking on at least one of these changes and make a plan to make that happen.

Good luck!


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Filed under: Business Coaching


  1. Gail says:

    Thank you Isolde! It is easy to forget how your attitude and approach impacts others & how you can pass on bad habits without realising it. Useful reflection piece!

  2. Claire Jenkinson says:

    Very interesting and valid points here Isolde. I will do that little exercise !

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