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Wellbeing strategies for resilient leaders

Wellbeing strategies for resilient leaders

Much has been made of the impact of the pandemic and the effects of remote working on the wellbeing of employees this past year. As we tentatively return to some semblance of normality, it will be the resilient organisations that will recover the quickest.

Resilient leaders need a positive state of mind to be able to adapt quickly and recover from difficulties. This is especially important at a time when many employees are feeling vulnerable, stressed, and overwhelmed. A leader that manages their own personal wellbeing also sends a powerful message that this is an organisation that recognises (and practices) a wellbeing culture, top-down.

As organisations rightly focus on the wellbeing of their people - leaders need to look after themselves too. In our book, ‘Real Leaders For the Real World’: Essential Traits of Successful and Authentic Leaders’ we look at a number of approaches.

We’ll share some here - all essential to being an effective leader:

Acknowledge that your wellbeing matters

Sometimes leaders can be their own worst enemy when it comes to looking after their own wellbeing. In our January blog on predictions for workplace mental health and wellbeing for 2021, we covered research from BUPA that found 42% of board-level executives felt their reputation would be harmed if it became known they were struggling. What’s more, 39% said they would not seek help for fear of it impacting their social or professional standing.

Personal awareness is essential to building resilience. The responsibilities of leadership can manifest themselves in unhealthy practices such as burnout - which has spiralled during the pandemic. It’s understandable that a leader would want to shoulder some of this - but there is always a breaking point - which can affect the capacity to lead if not addressed. Acknowledge that by looking after your own wellbeing, you are also looking after your organisation and people. There’s a lot at stake, particularly now.

Understand your emotions

Emotional regulation is, we believe, the essential ability all leaders require to be inspirational, consistently effective, and healthy. It’s usually after an event that we wonder why a particular behaviour, often negative and stressful, happened. Often the problem lies when we are not emotionally regulated. Emotional regulation teaches us to keep our emotions appropriate to the situation wherever possible. It is of course a big challenge for leaders who carry the most responsibility and are under the spotlight.

Help is at hand through self-development and personal reflection. For example, did you become more annoyed or angry than was needed? Start by noticing which emotions seem to stand out as disproportionate and work on managing those. Once you have awareness, you’ll be more equipped to manage emotional responses in the moment. Lifestyle also plays a big part - lack of sleep and poor diet reduce our alertness and capacity to regulate responses. Which brings us to…

Your physical wellbeing

What you put into your body plays a significant part in your mental wellbeing. There’s a science behind this. When your body processes food and drink it sends chemicals through your bloodstream and this impacts the chemicals in your brain. The key is to learn how your body works so that you can make sure you replenish what you need when you need it. As a general principle, if you are feeling low, depressed, or snappy - or find it hard to concentrate - check in with yourself. Do you need something healthy to eat or drink?

You’d be surprised by the impact that increasing your water intake has on energy levels and moods. Keep adjusting until you feel clear headed, resourceful, and with good energy. Breathing is also hot-wire to your emotions - which makes the ability to control your breathing a skill worth learning. When our emotions are triggered, our breathing changes. Once you can control your breathing you can pre-empt emotional triggers.

To find out more about breathing exercises, why not listen to our free MP3 download ‘Time for Me’from our website.

Spend time with good people

Another way of emotionally regulating your brain is to spend as much time as possible with people you feel relaxed with and see as your equal. Our brain structure and chemicals adjust depending on who we’re with. If you are feeling uncomfortable, under threat in some way, your brain will adjust, ready for the attack as required. This is an advantage if a bus is speeding towards you - but not if you are chairing a meeting.

Being around those with which you have built strong relationships will automatically change your emotional regulation for the better. These are the people that give you energy - not drain it away from you. As we return to offices and can once again have face to face meetings without the aid of a screen, re-establishing these relationships will give you an emotional re-charge.

Coaching and therapy

When we wrote the book we described a stigma in the UK about people seeing a therapist. It is, after all, a very British characteristic to ‘tough things out’. The pandemic and isolation that has come with it has had such an impact on mental health that having someone to turn to can only be a good thing - just as long as they have had the right training and are emotionally regulated themselves.

From our experience and the feedback of our clients, once self-awareness comes from working with a coach, this can take many of your negative feelings away, reducing stress and contributing to your mental wellbeing. Expressing yourself appropriately as a leader helps others to hear you with clarity - and respond in kind - with less scope for confusion, argument, or misunderstanding.

If you are thinking of working with a coach, our Coaching page describes how we work and also contains a link to download our ‘Selecting a Coach’ guide where we share the 'Industry Secrets' you need to know.

In conclusion

Resilient leaders are aware of situations, their likely emotional reactions, and the behaviour of those around them. However, it starts from within, and from the top. A resilient leader must acknowledge that their levels of wellbeing not only matter to them personally - but also send a signal of the value of wellbeing to employees. For these reasons, wellbeing isn’t a ‘nice to have’ if time allows, it’s going to be a pillar in the recovery and productivity of organisations, post Covid.

For further information

We cover aspects of leadership and wellbeing in several of our learning programmes. These can be delivered via face to face, online and blended learning.

Find out more by visiting Our programmes and clicking the links for more detail.

Real Leaders for the Real World - free first chapter

You can also explore more about emotional regulation and why we need Real Leaders for the Real World by downloading the first chapter of the award-winning book by Monkey Puzzle Co-founders Karen Meager and John McLachlan.


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