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Leadership: Are You Looking After Number One?

Leadership: Are You Looking After Number One?

Leadership experts claim that the best way to become a better leader is to start by taking better care of yourself.

Every business centre manager, workspace owner, team member and employee appreciates the value of good leadership. And as people are at the heart of every business, it is a trait that can make a business or break it.

Leadership expert Marcus Child, who will be presenting at the BCA's annual Conference & Exhibition on 16th May, says that a leader in business is the "weather maker", and the person who is best placed to manage the climate control. After all, it's their job to help maximise efficiency and achieve organisational goals - which in turn can put the business on the path to greater growth. Or in poor circumstances, it could be the nail in the coffin. Talk about pressure.

But as a business or a team leader, how do you know if your approach is the best one? How do you handle that pressure? Can you improve your techniques to get more out of your team? Do you feel that you're running at your full potential?

Looking after Number One

Interestingly, despite the requirement for good leaders to be people-focused team players, research suggests that one of the most crucial yet critically overlooked traits of a leader is their ability to look after themselves.

Leadership coach Madeleine Homan-Blanchard says that making decisions requires more than just knowledge and a sense of responsibility. It also requires a well-rested mind and a relaxed, clear-headed approach.

Specifically, Madeleine points to the need for a nourished and well-rested prefrontal cortex - the part of the brain that's responsible for decision-making, planning and personality expression. She says that even the smallest of decisions can tax this part of the brain, so by the end of the working day it's noticeably more difficult to make decisions than first thing in the morning.

"Our prefrontal cortex is a resource hog in terms of glucose and rest," she explains. "Its performance is also impacted by hydration, exercise, and sleep. In some ways it's like a gas tank. Every decision we make - from the mundane to the most critical - uses up a little bit of gas."

She says that the quality of thinking and decision-making diminishes when managers and team leaders are rushed, tired or overworked. And that's when poor leadership or the wrong decisions can creep in.

"That's why it is so important to know yourself and know how to schedule certain kinds of activities when your brain is going to be at its best," she says. "You want to schedule planning, brainstorming, and other creative activities while your brain is fresh."

Set limits

Madeleine advocates a high level of self-care, and recommends that the higher you go up the leadership chain, the better care you need to take of yourself.

"You can't keep going on an empty tank forever," she says, "If the leaders are not calm, and thinking straight - especially in the face of crazy stuff going on and way too much to do - then nothing good is going to happen."

As part of the self-care process, leaders should also attempt to set limits. Identify when you are best able to tackle challenging situations. Is it at 8.00am on a Monday morning? Straight after lunch? After exercise? Identify these times and pigeonhole this as the time when you deal with challenges or make tough decisions.

Self-care might feel a little alien to businesspeople who are used to chasing their tails to get things done. But it's a crucial art of becoming a good leader, and one that every leader, manager and business owner should make time for. Remember to look after number one so you can better look after your team, your responsi


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