Does sleeping better equate to leading better?
Research would support that it does. Surprisingly, what most impacts an organization’s bottom-line performance is a leader’s own mood.
New research shows that “a leader’s emotional style also drives everyone else’s moods and behaviors through a neurological process called mood contagion” (Primal Leadership, December 2001). Just like sneezes are contagious, so too are moods. And good one’s seem to travel fastest! Ruthless leaders create toxic organizations, while upbeat, inspirational leaders cultivate positive employees.
How can we, as leaders, ensure we put our best mood forward?
The answer starts outside the office, by sleeping better! Unfortunately, 42% of leaders currently only get six hours or fewer of sleep per night. Sleep is critical for many reasons, “it allows us to consolidate and store memories, process emotional experiences, replenish glucose (the molecule that fuels the brain), and clear out beta-amyloid (the waste product that builds up in Alzheimer’s).” On the flip side, lack of sleep leads to “poor judgement, lack of self-control, and impaired creativity.”
While in prior years, a manager’s performance was perceived to be static over time, (i.e. you’re either a good one or a bad one), recent research indicates that “individual behavior can vary dramatically from day to day and week to week – and much of this variance can be explained by the quality of a manager’s sleep.” When you sleep fewer hours, you tend to have short, abrupt interactions that can be perceived as rude or disengaged. This toxic behavior then multiplies as it spreads across the team. The opposite is true when you get a great night’s rest and come in with a positive, active-listening, and supportive approach to leading your team.
There are some easy ways to increase your amount of sleep. Stick to a consistent bedtime and wakeup schedule, avoid caffeine, exercise, alcohol, and nicotine before bed, and try meditation to relax and reduce anxiety to soothe yourself to sleep. Stay off your cellphone after 9pm, as the blue light from the screen suppresses the natural production of melatonin, which is the crucial biochemical involved in the process of falling asleep. And don’t underestimate the value of a nap! Research shows that even a twenty minute nap can “lead to meaningful restoration that improves the quality of work.”
So, if you want to inspire, motivate, and cultivate strong relationships at work, get a good night’s sleep!
But, it’s hard enough to get a good night’s rest at home, what about when we’re on the road?
Yes, research does support that business travel increases trouble sleeping by 37%. Business travel also increases the risk of anxiety and depression, which can both adversely effect a leader’s mood.
To reduce the stress of traveling, try staggering your trips so that you’re only on the road 1-2 nights per week. Also, remember to let others in on the journey and pass some opportunities to your team.
For additional tips on how to reduce anxiety, increase sleep, and optimize comfort when traveling, check out our post on the Top 5 Ways to Beat the Business Travel Blues
Sources: Primal Leadership, December 2001 by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee. Managers Need More Rest, Here’s How to Get it, Sep-Oct 2018 Harvard Business Review by Christopher M. Barnes.