“Self-care is not selfish. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.”                                                                                                                        -Eleanor Brownn

“I’m getting way too much sleep, spending a ton of time with my friends and family, and I’m in the best physical shape of my life,” said no corporate executive ever.

In his book Betterness Umair Haque writes, “Why is business chronically and often unashamedly at odds with what is good for people, society and the natural world? Why is the generally accepted definition of prosperity the growth of industrial output, not the emotional, social, physical, or ethical growth of humans?” Both great questions and another may be why we as leaders allow it to be so through our un-abating quest for profits over the care for people with human potential and human flourishing left in the balance. Signs are everywhere as we continue to boil the proverbial frog inside the walls of our organizations and over the years of our own lives.

Cultures are built in the shadow of the leaders. As such, if we want to build organizations that are “good for people,” those at the top have to go first, making their own health and well being a priority to inspire those around them to do the same. Along with this, leaders must create the environment and conditions for self-care to thrive; environments that encourage, recognize, and reward lives lived meaningfully well as much as achieving the next big business result. So where from here?

In Mike Robbin’s article Self Care Isn’t Selfish he writes, “unfortunately, a lot of us think of self-care as selfish or as something we should do when we get everything else done.” The obvious fallacy in this is we never really get everything else done – do we? And in the effort to do so, how well do we actually show up for others in the course of our relentlessly busy days? Robbin’s goes on to say, “taking care of ourselves not only nourishes us but also allows us to be available for important things and people in our lives.” We have to stop kidding ourselves that being there is the same as being present. And nothing diminishes our present moment awareness more than being tired. As leaders, we have to take care of ourselves so we can take care of others. There is nothing selfish about this.

And what of others, how do we create the environment and conditions for those around us to prioritize self-care? In Simon Sinek’s book Leaders Eat Last he keeps it real simple…we need to make it safe for them to do so. Safe in a sense that leaders provide protection from above and people on the ground look out for each other when someone pushes hard and takes risks. It’s about creating a place where employees feel safe among their own people, working together to achieve things they could not achieve alone. I could not think of a better environment for the activation of human potential and human flourishing.

As a proponent of healthy living, Haque closes Betterness with one of my all time favorite quotes when he says, “a life well lived is a consequence of human choice: the decision to pursue the significant over the trivial, the enduring over the evanescent, and the meaningful over the useless. So here’s my challenge – live one.”

To continue the conversation, please join us at George Mason University’s Leading to Well-Being in Workplaces, Organizations and Communities Conference March 26 – 27, 2015. More information is available here.



Mark Fernandes

Mark Fernandes

Having a passion for inspiring people to believe in themselves and become everything they are capable of becoming, Mark works with individuals and organizations to inspire transformation. @MarkSFernandes

close slider

    Subscribe to the InnerWill email for inspirational stories and tips on how to build engagement, trust, and success at work and beyond – delivered right to your inbox every Monday morning!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.