Put the oxygen mask on you first

Flight attendants still tell you to put the oxygen mask on yourself before attempting to help others. If you don’t take care of yourself first, you become part of the problem rather than the solution. We’ve all seen leaders who haven’t taken care of themselves. They turn blue in the face, gasping for air, while they struggle to keep all the plates spinning.

Leaders unintentionally choke off their own oxygen by engaging in counterproductive activities that magnify rather than minimize stress. Here are three surprising ways you can give yourself a breath of fresh air.

#1. Listen in ways the relieve stress. Many leaders listen to offer answers, console frustrated employees, or in some other way solve problems. If you listen-to-solve, every person you listen to adds stress to your day. I suggest you stop listening-to-solve and begin listening to make others feel understood. Once you’ve created a supportive environment, you can begin finding solutions.

#2.  Let go of details. If you’re leading your organization and you know organizational or project details you’re killing yourself with stress. I’ve seen people act like caged rats when confronted with the possibility of saying, “I don’t know,” to their superiors. Perhaps it’s better to realize that knowing all the details indicates you’re limiting personal and organizational potential. I love saying, “I didn’t realize we were doing that.”  The further up you go the less you know.

#3. Speak the truth, it un-kinks your air supply. We’ve all seen leaders speaking half-truths to protect themselves or others. Apart from violating confidential information, leaders must speak the truth. If necessary, take your lumps. The truth sets you free. Here’s an added benefit, sincere candor builds confidence in others.


How do leaders unintentionally make their own lives more difficult?


Leadership Freak,

Dan Rockwell