There’s a reason ‘it’s lonely at the top’ is one of the most commonly used phrases by people in leadership positions … and it’s never been more true than for women who take on leadership roles.
The basic definition of a leader is something as simple as this: a person who leads or commands a group of people or an organisation. However, the reality is that leadership is often complex and demanding.
There are so many layers that come with being a leader. The added burden of being responsible for a group of individuals is something that most women take extremely seriously. The best leaders appear to effortlessly display qualities like honesty, delegation, communication and confidence. All this at the same time as knowing how to inspire their teams to achieve dizzying heights.
Often, there is little or no training offered for individuals to become great leaders. If you’re lucky, you come across someone who inspires you, and you find a way to learn from them. But for most leaders they learn on the job and, depending on the culture of their workplace, they sink or they swim.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that most women in corporate roles (other than in the public service) seem to have to battle a great deal of bureaucratic red tape in order to access company-sponsored training funds. What this means is that any formal leadership development training comes at their own expense. Additionally, age-old customs and long-held beliefs see women finding it hard to justify spending time and money on themselves, so there is an added impact on their ability to access quality training that can assist them with personal and professional development.
For women, leadership positions come at a greater cost. We take the responsibility of looking after, and leading, others very seriously. We absorb the pressure from above and shield our teams as much as we can, without considering the cost to ourselves as we do so.
All of this adds up to a significant yet silent load that stress places on the shoulders of women in leadership. Stress plays a massive factor in our lives, but we’ve been taught that stress and exhaustion are necessary components of being successful.
As a leader, we take on the responsibility of asking people to follow us, but we need to consider what we are asking them to follow. We spend so much of our time committing ourselves to the needs of others, the business, our boss and our team members … and we forget to make sure we are OK as well.
We may physically leave the office building at the end of the working day, but technology now means our work travels with us when we go home. Our immediate focus may shift from what is happening in the office to what is happening in our family, but technology allows those two domains to overlap and blend throughout the day. There is no respite; we’re in demand and on notice 24/7. We don’t get a break and this amplifies the level of stress in our lives.
We’ve been trained to live like this – but it doesn’t have to be this way.
To combat the stress of being a leader, you can benefit almost immediately from focusing on the following five things:
- Make sure that sleep is a critical component of every day. Sleep is essential for making sure you’re well rested. Stress levels rise significantly when you’re tired, and there’s a direct correlation between being tired and an increased difficulty in decision making.
- Allocate some “Me Time”. Set aside a specific period of time each day to relax and re-charge your batteries. Make sure that you structure it so that you cannot be reached and where you disconnect from technology. Re-charging your energy in the right way not only allows you to fulfil your everyday activities, it also assists in achieving beneficial sleep.
- Establish your ‘posse’. Who are the people in your life that you could call at any hour of the day or night if you needed them? Are any of these people outside your immediate family group? Make sure you schedule time to catch up with these ‘go-to’ people regularly – this will keep your posse current. Plus, if they’re your ‘go-to’ people, chances are you are theirs in return. Connection is key.
- Make sure your friends are people outside your workplace. Your friends should be people who help you re-energise, but they should also be people who help you grow and develop. Pick the people who will tell you the truth in a loving and kind way – not just what you want to hear because you’re their boss.
- Spend time with positive people. Spend time with people who leave you energised after spending time with them. Intentionally choose to have people in your life that will pick you up.
There is nothing normal about being constantly stressed and exhausted … and there is a very different way to live that is no more difficult that learning to ask yourself a few questions that allow you to think a little bit differently.
Want more info on how to reduce the stress in your life? There are loads of tips and tricks on living and thinking differently in my book ‘Keep It Super Simple’ – you can buy a copy from www.sheiqlife.com/shop.
Want to chat? Email me on firstname.lastname@example.org or call me on +61 438 624 868 and we’ll set up a time!
Bronwen Sciortino is a Simplicity Expert, Professional Speaker and the author of ‘Keep It Super Simple – Tips from a Recovering Perfectionist’. Join the conversation by subscribing to the tribe at www.sheiqlife.com; Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn.