Fit Enough To Lead

As written for IAM Manager.

Becoming a great leader takes passion, drive and respect – and working every hour you can find. Cognitive Neuroscientist Dr Lynda Shaw looks at how you can reach the top without sacrificing your mental wellbeing on the way there. 

Long hours, few holidays, pressure: being a great CEO can takes its toll. Most CEOs accept that working an average 18 hour day is just part of the job and with today’s technological advances there are few places to hide. 

Working round the clock can however lead to a high degree of stress, sleep deprivation and a feeling of isolation, which in turn can cause a host of medical issues. While working long hours in inevitable, there are ways to become a great CEO or manager without enduring stress or damaging your emotional health. 

Great communication is a must. Whether it’s walking into a meeting, talking to a colleague, addressing an audience, or even answering the phone, in order to have a strong leadership presence, you need to have an authoritative voice. Engagement is crucial. Stand tall, make steady direct eye contact and use pauses to position yourself as thoughtful and confident. In addition never put your hands in your pockets because you won’t be able to convey true enthusiasm and energy. 

Passion is powerful. It is important to treat everything as an opportunity and to be passionate about what you do. And don’t forget to celebrate successes, boost morale and recognise when people need a break. These will all show that you care. The best CEO’s have a sense of humour, know when to keep things light and are always firm but fair, listening to all sides and then trusting their experience and instincts. Having clear rules and instructions shows employees what you expect of them and that breaching this can results in consequences. 

To maintain that passionate outlook it is vital that as a CEO, you take care of yourself too. Rising to the influential position of CEO may seem the height of success and glamour on the surface with the wealth, authority and influence that does with it, but the flip side is CEOs are increasingly sleep-deprived, stressed and lonely at the top. Sleep deprivation itself can have a major impact on both day-to-day performance and on overall health. In the short term, sleep deprivation can cause memory and cognitive impairment and decreased alertness. In the long term sleep deprivation is associated with some serious illnesses including high blood pressure, heart failure, stroke, depression and obesity. 

Modern technology allows us to be available 24/7 which has advantages but also has huge disadvantages, as we are increasingly unable to switch off and relax without thoughts of work. It is vital that we don’t feel overwhelmed, for if we do cortisol, the stress hormone, plays havoc on neurotransmitters and out mental and physical well-being. In my opinion, it is incredibly important to seek respite from work on a daily basis, even if we love or are very driven by what we do. 

Sharing the workload is essential. The art to delegating is souring your colleagues according to strengths, weaknesses, what they enjoy doing and how good they are at devoting their effort and time to complete tasks effectively. 

Top management can often be unaware of what’s happening further down in the organisational hierarchy and uncertainty and a lack of trust are common amongst the UK’s workforce. Trust and honesty within your team is a must. Your staff needs to have faith in you but the same applies to you. Generally speaking if you can trust your colleagues and you are highly ethical they will follow suit. After all, the success of any company is down to the combined efforts of all employees and not just the members on the board. Having better staff relationships is also important to stop the isolation of the CEO. 

So be negotiable. It’s very important to listen to others within your team. They might have some great ideas which could strengthen the business as a whole. If they have a good idea, tell them and reward these ideas and never take credit for their work. This improves the employee’s self-confidence and they are grateful to you in recognising this. 

Developing employee relationships, maintaining a sense of humour, trusting colleagues and delegating – these simple strategies will not only create a sense of respect among the workforce but will ensure life at the top isn’t a stressful lonely one. 

Beat Stress And Stay On Top With These Tips…

1. Ensure fun and humour is in your life. Laughter is said to reduce stress hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine (aka adrenaline). Humour of course will also distract you from the stressful situation. 

2. Avoid smoking, drinking alcohol or taking pills or drugs to cope with day-to-day stress. They may make you feel better in the short term but they will cause harm to your body in the long run. 

3. Plan in and don’t rearrange family time and fun with friends. 

4. Leave work at work when you can. Practise turning off your phone or disable your work emails during the evenings and at weekends, so that you’re not constantly distracted by thoughts of work during your “downtime”. 

5. Make sure you find the time to relax and unwind and put it into your schedule! Even on a hectic day, just 10 or 15 minutes where you can read a book, go for a walk, watch a bit of TV or listen to some music will help recharge your batteries. Step away from the desk! 

6. Keep active and make time for exercise – this will boost your energy levels, improve concentration and ultimately help you get things done more efficiently. Do exercise you enjoy rather than one that is a chore so you are more likely do to it. Go for a walk with friends. 

7. Make sure you fully enjoy the time you spend away from work by doing things that you will really look forward to. Don’t over-plan but have a social event such as a family day out or cinema trip in your diary so you feel you have done something with the feel good factor. 

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This post was published to show the IAM’s support (partners & supporters) for EventWell17 week. The Event Industries first national wellbeing week. 


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