Sleep Better, Lead Better | Extraordinary Business

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The leader of a team sets the tone for the team…and the larger the organization, the more “tones” you can run into as you walk from one side of an office to another.

We all know research states 8 hours as the optimum amount of sleep to achieve each night, but I don’t know too many people who actually experience that on a regular basis (including myself).

Even when I go to bed early to attempt to make it happen, most times I don’t fall asleep right away, and then once I do I often wake up a few times for various reasons (I am 50 now!) followed by tossing and turning until I fall back asleep.

Inconsistent sleep has been a regular part of my life for a long time, but one thing that has significantly helped me throughout my career to deal with it has been a habit I began back in my 20’s.  At that time, I was working 2 jobs and wasn’t able to go home between them. To offset potential weariness, I often found a parking spot in a quieter section of a shopping area, put down the front bucket seat, pulled out my small pillow, set my timer, and took a nap for 20 – 60 minutes as often as I could in order to remain productive over the 16-18 hours I had to work most days.  Those naps became essential over the next 2-3 years and are still essential today regardless of where I am or what I am doing.

Quantity and quality of sleep for leadership is crucial. Christopher M. Barnes goes into great detail about the necessity of sleep for leaders in his article, “Sleep Well, Lead Well” from Harvard Business Review. He mentions “…studies have found that when leaders show up for work unrested, they are more likely to lose patience with employees, act in abusive ways, and be seen as less charismatic. There is also a greater likelihood that their subordinates will themselves suffer from sleep deprivation—and even behave unethically.”

Barnes and a colleague initiated a study to prove their theory, measuring “the sleep of 40 managers and their 120 direct reports during the first three months of their assigned time working together, along with the quality of these boss-employee relationships. We found that sleep-deprived leaders were more impatient, irritable, and antagonistic, which resulted in worse relationships. We expected that this effect would diminish over time as people got to know each other, but it did not. Sleep deprivation was just as damaging at the end of the three months as it was at the beginning. However, the leaders were completely unaware of the negative dynamic.”

I know you know sleep is important, so before you move on with your day take a few minutes and read the rest of Barnes’ article here.  And don’t devalue your need for sleep one more second… because your company, team and your family are all affected by your lack of it.


In addition to sleep, there are a number of other intangible aspects that often affect leadership.  If you are interested in improving your game or taking your team to the next level, contact us to learn more about our Aepiphanni Ascend Leadership Development program.  Fill out the form below and we’ll be happy to schedule a Coffee & Consult to chat in more detail about how we can help.

Kris Cavanaugh Castro is the People Development Coach at Aepiphanni, the trusted advisor for business leaders who are seeking forward-thinking solutions to help them plan for and navigate through the challenges of business growth.  Kris has over 25 years of coaching, training and mentoring leaders to greater success; and she periodically writes about leadership development and facilitates change management conversations.

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