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Putting yourself first as a leader - with Leanne Cooper

In business, there is always that focus on the customer or client. Leaders have to focus on leading their teams, and prioritising their team’s well-being. However, leaders do not spend as much time focusing on themselves. There can be a lack of self-development for the leaders who are in charge of overseeing and leading a team. Leanne Cooper, a Self-Development Specialist, weighs in.

What does it mean to put yourself first as a leader?

Leanne says that it is important that leaders first help themselves before helping their team and their customers or clients. It is important that you, as a leader, make your needs a priority too. Making your needs a priority will give you the extended capacity to show up for yourself and your team. It is important that you show up as the best version of yourself because that will benefit you and your organisation. This will reduce the chances of you experiencing burnout and it will allow you to lead your team more effectively.

Reasons why you should put yourself first as a leader

  1. Because you deserve to be happy. If what you are doing is not making you happy, you need to change what you are doing.

  2. All your relationships (relationships with your team and family members) will improve if you are happy. You will be able to be more present when you are with them, and you will feel more connected to them.

  3. It is about the behaviour you role model – leaders should lead by example – if you want your team to also make themselves a priority and take care of themselves and their well-being, you should also prioritise yourself.

Signs you need to start putting yourself first

  • Persistent tiredness

  • Feeling overwhelmed

  • Not being able to remember the last time you felt excited about something

  • Not getting joy from your everyday life, you’re always on a countdown for the weekend or holiday

  • Not having an opinion – you’re just going with the rest of the crowd and agreeing with everyone else

  • Withdrawing socially – seeing friends feels like a chore because you are so burnt out

  • Being in a constant blur of business – you’re always busy doing something for someone else and not doing something for you

  • Forgetting who you are and what you love.

  • Recognising that you struggle with boundaries, and you are a people pleaser.

How can leaders put themselves first?

Have the time and patience to look around you and reflect on what is going on. The most essential thing for you to put yourself first as a leader is by setting boundaries. Work the hours you are supposed to work and, in that time, give it the best you can. Remember, it is not a good thing that you are always available because you’re never going to be 100% effective if you are available all the time. It is normal that you feel you have to work longer hours because, often in the workplace, you get judged by the amount of work you do rather than the quality of your work. Working such long hours is not sustainable.

It is easy to forget yourself because we live in this hustle culture where resting is seen as being lazy and if we do not push forward like the others, we fear we might get left behind. There is this kind of peer pressure people feel from the corporate world – if you do not work hard like the others, you are seen as the weak link. It also comes from how we are brought up. You are taught to focus on others and help them, but what about you? Make yourself a priority as well.

In conclusion

Take 100% responsibility for your life and don’t blame others because you have to recognise that you can control and change the situation.

Step away and reconnect with who you are. Carve out some time for yourself and do something that makes you happy.

Take the time to ask yourself how you are feeling – reflect – look at the way you are speaking to yourself – negative self-talk can negatively impact you.

Start small – focus on the small things you can do to change, and don’t take big steps that you can’t do at that certain time. Recognise that it is a process, and it does not happen overnight.

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