The days of great Leadership at the expense of ourselves are over.


The days of great Leadership at the expense of ourselves are over.

Do you have aspirations to become a great Leader? This could be Leadership as part of a business or as a Leader in your community or family.

If so the following information will stand you in good stead for a new breed of Leadership that shows up differently. The days of great Leadership at the expense of ourselves are over.

Great Leaders recognise that sustainability concepts are not just relevant to business practices but importantly something we need to implement in relation to ourselves.

  1. Why do we even need to talk about ‘self care’ for Leaders isn’t it obvious?

In my world of stress management, personal and professional development coaching and habits based interventions ‘self care’ as a priority is obvious. I see the results of a lack of implementation for business leaders and employees alike. But for many others it is not obvious. Business owners might be clear about their obligations to others and spend lots of time and money ensuring they meet those obligations and rightly so however, I see that when it comes to the Leaders themselves the ‘self care’ bundle is dropped.

This is unhealthy for people and therefore bad for business.

Things are changing but it’s still a bit like a New Years Eve declaration. Resolutions are made and posted onto the fridge but the infrastructure that’s required to have it happen is missing.

This infrastructure includes:

  • support,
  • a plan,
  • a focus,
  • aligned goals,
  • and action steps which are all foundational to really build these practices in for ourselves.

When concrete infrastructure steps are missed we are not building the foundational neurology OR habits that are required to keep the practices in place.

  1. What might convince business leaders of the importance of self care practices and what are the consequences of not taking this seriously?

Below are two references as a guide for costs of workplace stress and mental health issues in the work place. What is important to note is they span from 2008 – 2019 and the numbers have remained reasonably consistent. The workplace is comprised of multiple Leaders across every industry, they are a part of these figures, not separate.

The Cost of Work Place Stress 2008 – Medibank Private and Workplace Health

Workplace stress is costing the Australian economy $14.81 billion a year. Stress related presenteeism and absenteeism are directly costing Australian employers $10.11 billion a year.

Shared Value Project

In an 2019 ABC News report, senior business correspondent Peter Ryan commented on results from the Shared Value report which concluded:

The direct cost to business for mental health related issues is estimated to be $13b a year.

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare SEPT 2020 Report states:

Smoking rates increase with socioeconomic disadvantage but illicit drug use is highest in the most advantaged areas. Again Leaders exist across all socioeconomic areas.

What all three of these reports highlight is that no Leader is immune from the impacts of mental health issues.

Stress and other mental health issues do not discriminate.

Underlying cause of all of these impacts is mental health issues including stress, anxiety and depression. All of these issues can be dealt with, managed or ameliorated if we were to take better care of ourselves and each other.

Our Leaders need to embody a different model because these statistics include them!

  1. Is there still stigma around the subject of self care?

YES – otherwise we would widely celebrate those leaders who are doing it well. We would see headlines more like “Leader of company X grows business and attributes success to investment in wellbeing and personal development programs.”

For some people the words ‘self care’ may be off putting. Perhaps a little ‘soft’. Asserting this is a tactic to dismiss the importance of self care practices. I would like to rephrase this to see if it can be more palatable because the real effect of self care is to develop sustainable leadership and sustainable people.  People and Leaders who are more productive, focused, creative and self sustainable. 

Anyone in business knows one of the biggest costs to business is the loss of it’s people – it’s ‘human capital’ (which is a really cold way of saying it’s investment in it’s awesome capacity and potential’). We talk about sustainability practices in relation to our businesses but rarely in relation to ourselves.

Leaders need to refuel and recalibrate. They then need to show others how to do this. That is self sustainability.

Avoid the more than 90% of preventable lifestyle illnesses.

We also have a neurological and physiological imperative to do this. This is science not woo woo. Sustainability practices include doing all those things that ensure we avoid the more than 90% of preventable lifestyle illnesses simply by taking better and more conscious care of ourselves.

  1. What constitutes ‘self care’?

The answer to this is unique to each individual.

This is important: the type of self sustainability that we need to practice will vary for each of us.

Part of the confusing is that people are doing what they ‘think’ constitutes self sustainability practices rather than exploring what self sustainability feels like for them. There is no point in getting a massage if all you are thinking is how uncomfortable you feel. There is no point playing tennis if all you feel is exhausted and humiliated after a game.

Find what works for you.

I encourage you to think of self sustainability as something that fills your cup. A valuable question to ask your self is: what restores me, gives me energy or makes me feel good, rested, stronger and more capable? Then do it.

  1. Even knowing we need it, why might we avoid doing it?

Neurologically our brain say’s “NO” to new habits or changes in routine if we don’t set them up correctly. Our mind will actively reject those things that take us out of normal routine because it represents a requirement for conscious effort or the need for more resource expenditure.

This bias towards sameness is amplified by end of day exhaustion, other peoples opinions, what we might feel about needing support, feeling it is just one more thing we have to do, competing responsibilities getting in the way such as relationships/family, choosing self last, too much else to take care of etc.

The remedy to this response and bias is multifaceted. Here are some suggestions.

  1. Get Coaching from a Habits Based Practitioner, this is different to behaviour change.
  2. Get someone else to support you, for example, family or friends, or a whole group such as a team
  3. Make sure you are choosing what YOU love
  4. Practice or rehearse mentally as well as physically to leverage the positive impact
  5. Schedule practices into your diary on a regular basis as ‘non-negotiables’ – we need to have a no compromises attitude to these practices.


Why is it more important than ever to be a leader who models ‘self care’?

There has been lots of talk particularly in Melbourne, Victoria with the lockdown around the impact on mental health and the looming fallout from the impact of COVID 19. If there was ever a time for our business leaders to install self sustainability practices and arm themselves with self sustainability practices to keep them well this is it.

If you are a Leader, you will have people in need. If you want to serve them you need to support yourself first.

Resilience is a fine thing but to develop and demonstrate resilience we have to continue to fill our own cup so we have resources to draw on when the need for resilience hits.

There is such a big difference between ‘managing’ your business and ‘leading’ your business and the same can be said for ourselves.

The days of great Leadership being at the expense of ourselves are over.

I believe the next great Leadership model is about consideration of others and ourselves as whole people who are experiencing all of the curve balls of life and safeguarding ourselves against the fall out.

As Leaders we have to be prepared to model the behaviours that make US sustainable and teach them to those for whom we are responsible.

This makes all of business sustainable.

I will leave you with a couple of challenge questions:

What do you do to embody ‘self sustainability’ in your business?

What are you going to do to make sure you are sustainable?


Dr Linda Wilson is a Mindflow Mentor, Coach, Author and Presenter.

Are you looking to find your way through, around or over something? Are you in need of a course correction or need support?

From neuroscience to energy psychology, habits change to emotional management – let’s have a chat about you, your team or your business.

Find out more about me at

Purchase my book here

Purchase my online Stress Made Easy Bootcamp here

Book in with me here

Connect with me here. FB LI