In recognition of Sleep Awareness Week UK and ahead of International Leadership Week, Daniel White, Founder of Sleep Better Live Better discusses why sleep is vital to be an effective leader.
In the fast-paced world of the 21st century, effective leadership has never been more crucial.
Good leadership is more than just having a title or position of authority; it involves a combination of skills, traits, and behaviours that inspire and motivate others to achieve common goals.
Leaders at all levels and in all walks of life play a critical role in inspiring positive change in the world, whether it’s through driving innovation, fostering collaboration, or promoting social and environmental responsibility.
Some of the most well-researched skills for effective leadership include cognitive function and problem-solving, communication, emotional regulation and role modelling. It’s well known that leaders who possess these skills are better able to navigate complex challenges, build strong relationships, manage emotions and set a positive example for others. However, another commonality between all of these skills and a leader’s ability to express them is the quality of their sleep.
Many leaders carry vast amounts of responsibility on their shoulders, which makes it very easy to overlook sleep as one of the most fundamental pillars of good leadership. Despite the widespread belief that successful leaders are those who work tirelessly and burn the midnight oil, research suggests that a good night’s sleep is essential for good leadership.
In this Wellbeing Wednesday article, we’ll explore the critical importance of sleep for these core leadership and how prioritising sleep can lead to improved leadership effectiveness.
This is essential for leaders as they need to make complex decisions, solve problems and develop innovative ideas. Sleep plays a vital role in cognitive functioning as it helps consolidate memories and improves attention and focus. Sleep deprivation, on the other hand, can lead to impaired judgment, slower reaction times and difficulty concentrating, which can negatively affect a leader’s ability to make sound decisions.
Furthermore, sleep deprivation can also lead to long-term cognitive decline. A study published in the Journal of Sleep Research found that chronic sleep deprivation was associated with a decline in cognitive function over time, particularly in tasks related to attention, working memory, and executive function. It’s clear that leaders who prioritise sleep are more likely to establish and maintain their cognitive edge.
Effective communication is crucial for successful leadership. Leaders need to be able to articulate their ideas clearly, listen actively to others and communicate effectively and empathetically with their team members. Sleep plays an essential role in communication as it impacts both verbal and non-verbal communication.
When leaders are well-rested, they are better able to express their thoughts and ideas clearly and coherently. Sleep also plays additional roles in non-verbal communication, such as facial expressions and body language. When leaders are sleep-deprived, they may have difficulty controlling their emotions, leading to unintentional non-verbal cues that can negatively impact communication with others. In contrast, well-rested leaders are more likely to maintain emotional regulation and communicate more effectively, which can help build strong relationships within and outside of their organisations.
Emotional regulation is a critical component of effective leadership, as leaders need to manage their emotions, remain calm under pressure and empathise with their teams. Sleep plays a crucial role in emotional regulation as it impacts mood, emotional stability and overall wellbeing. When leaders are well-rested, they are better able to regulate their emotions, handle stress and maintain a positive attitude.
On the other hand, sleep deprivation can lead to emotional instability, irritability and mood swings. A study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that sleep-deprived leaders were more likely to experience negative emotions such as anger and frustration, leading to lower job satisfaction and performance. Contrast this with leaders that prioritise sleep and who are more likely to maintain positivity and optimism – I know which I would rather work with!
As a leader, your behaviour sets the tone for your team and the example you set is critical to maintaining a positive and productive work environment. Role modelling is one of the most important leadership skills and it encompasses everything from demonstrating ethical behaviour to showing respect for others.
Well-rested leaders tend to be alert and clear minded, which can lead to better decision-making and consistent demonstrations of positive behaviour.
In contrast, sleep deprivation can lead to a lack of impulse control and poor judgment, which can negatively impact a leader’s behaviour and the influence this has on their team. This was shown by study published in the journal Sleep which found that sleep-deprived individuals were more likely to engage in unethical behaviour, demonstrating a lack of integrity and decision-making skills.
Those leaders who prioritise sleep are more likely to have better cognitive functioning, communicate more effectively, maintain emotional regulation and set a positive example for their team.
Prioritising Sleep for Improved Leadership Effectiveness
In conclusion, it’s clear that sleep plays a critical role in all core leadership skills. Those leaders who prioritise sleep are more likely to have better cognitive functioning, communicate more effectively, maintain emotional regulation and set a positive example for their team. Through prioritising sleep leaders can improve their overall leadership effectiveness, make better decisions, and inspire their team members to achieve common goals.
When a leader sleeps better, they feel better and their mental and physical health can flourish. I truly believe that there are no challenges we’re currently facing that cannot be solved by dedicated and passionate teams of people who are led by well-rested leaders functioning at their full potential!
I hope that this article inspires our leaders to recognise the importance of sleep and make it a priority to ensure they can perform at their best.