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Self-Management: An Overlooked, yet Crucial Leadership Skill

Wednesday, January 25, 2023 - Prophit Co.

It goes without saying – being a leader is a difficult job. Leaders are not just encouraged, but expected to make a significant part of their lives about the management and development of others. Truly great leaders are taught to demonstrate utmost compassion for those under their guide. Using authenticity, flexibility, and intricate understanding, they seek to constantly improve the quality of life within their teams, empowering them with a healthier work environment more conducive to their success. At the same time, a great leader is expected to advance the bottom line of their organization – increasing profitability, efficiency, and extracting the most possible gains out of the resources they have to work with.

Handling all of these responsibilities at the same time can prove to be immensely draining on a leader. In the absence of proper support, a leader is more susceptible to physical health issues and burnout, which affects an organization’s bottom line by decreasing productivity and increasing turnover in leaders. Given this reality, it’s imperative for organizations to ensure that they are providing ample training and support for their leaders to keep them on the right track. Here are a few ways they can get after it:

  1. Re-assess company culture
    If a company culture is one that encourages leaders to “surface act” (hiding their true feelings with performative, fake emotions), leaders become more fatigued by emotional labor and more susceptible to lashing out at their teams due to their discontent. Furthermore, leaders who feel as if they have to constantly “surface act” are more susceptible to severe health issues, including but not limited to heavy drinking and insomnia. Organizations should consider their emotional culture and ensure that they are cultivating an emotionally safe environment that encourages their leaders the be authentic, not fake.
  2. Teach and train self-compassion
    Organizations can start getting after this issue by providing education, development, and training opportunities on the benefits of self-compassion. Understanding self-compassion allows leaders to alleviate some of the stress of their role by trusting that difficulties and imperfections are not just okay, but completely normal. Leaders should be taught to be understanding and patient with themselves, and trust that the people around them will afford them the same patience.
  3. Offer access to peer support groups
    Leaders tend to feel very isolated in the knowledge that the final responsibility for whatever happens, positive or negative, will always lie with them. A lot of this negative feeling can be alleviated by giving your leaders access to a group of other leaders, where they will find comfort in understanding that they aren’t alone in their experiences, which can help them healthily cope with this feeling in the long term.

Overall, leaders are faced with a mountain of expectations every day, from managing the unique emotional needs of their team members, to maximizing output from the resources they’re given, to forwarding the bottom line for their organization. Managing all of these at the same time can prove to be incredibly taxing on a leader’s mental and physical health and interfere with their ability to deliver their best self to their team. As such, it’s important to teach and support leaders in developing their skills in self-management.

Smith, Dina Denham and Grandey, Alicia A. (2022). “The Emotional Labor of Being a Leader” [Article]. 02 November, 2022. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2022/11/the-emotional-labor-of-being-a-leader [Accessed December 8, 2022]


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