Sleep like a world class leader

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Sleep is critical for success. And the top leaders know it.

In a recent assessment of 35 000 top leaders, the Harvard Business Review found that good leaders prioritise good sleep. On the contrary, they found that non-executive leaders (or the middle men) are reported to gather a mere 5-7 hours of sleep per evening.

What advantage do those getting enough sleep and succeeding in top leadership roles have over those who are not getting enough sleep?

An extensive McKinsey research study sought to define what high-quality leadership was as well as find out how sleep impacts leadership.

Nick Van Dam and Els van Der Helm co-authors of “The Organisational Cost of Insufficent Sleep” went on to explain how getting less than 7-9 hours sleep could get in the way of performing all four of these key attributes:

Results orientation

It is difficult to complete tasks and meet goals when both your attention and concentration are impaired due to insufficient sleep. Distractibility and flitting between tasks are behavioural outcomes of sleep deprivation.

Solving problems

Leaders make a way but to do this they need to use creativity, pattern recognition and insight. These cognitive skills are severely impaired when there has been inadequate sleep. 16 hours of wakefulness shows a reduction in problem-solving ability and an increase in work errors. This means it takes longer to produce sloppy work if you woke at 6am and are still at it around 11pm.

Seeking different perspectives

Leaders must evolve and grow to stay relevant to their organization. The ability to learn and make decisions is enhanced by sleep. As Clinton famously advised Obama on his way out of office: “In my long career, most of the mistakes I made, I made when I was too tired…. You make better decisions when you’re not too tired.”

Supporting others

In order to look after those below you and build long-lasting positive relationships, you need to be able to contain your own feelings and avoid reacting explosively. One night of sleep deprivation shows a sharp increase in emotional reactivity and difficulty with socio-emotional processing. Leaders sleep so that they can contain and guide their followers rather than alienating and crating divides in the work place.

So what do the top leaders know about succeeding long-term?

Rest is best. For sure.

If you want to succeed, then you need to invest in your sleep. Visit Sealy for more information about how to get your best night’s sleep.

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