The Importance of Sleep in Leadership

February 18, 2016

The Importance of Sleep in Leadership

The Importance of Sleep in Leadership

When you think of great leaders throughout history and your own experiences, what do you see? A family patriarch taking care of their loved ones? A sports icon who captains his team to victory? A young boy who risks it all in the name of saving the wizarding world from He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named?


Whatever comes to mind, many of those whom we perceive as leaders share the same qualities: tenacity, a will to succeed, and a deep passion for what they strive to achieve (and maybe the rightful possession of the most powerful wand in the world).


But there’s one quality to which we may need to start paying closer attention: recent research indicates a direct correlation between quality of sleep and leadership ability.


A Harvard Business Review study concluded that of 180 business leaders surveyed, 4 out of 10 did not get adequate sleep. And according to HBR and a previous McKinsey research, the most critical leadership behaviors are controlled by the prefrontal cortex of the brain.


Now, while other parts of the brain are able to be fully functional with poor sleep, the prefrontal cortex isn’t. So if you decide to binge-watch your favorite sitcom well past your bedtime, your critical thinking and decision making will be severely impaired.


The aforementioned McKinsey research found that four kinds behavior account for 89% of leadership effectiveness, all of which are housed in the prefrontal cortex:


  • Being supportive -- Having an understanding of how your subordinates and colleagues are feeling can show others you genuinely care about more than the bottom line. This results in better output from those you are leading.

  • Operating with strong results orientation -- Having a plan of action that emphasizes productivity and efficiency and seeing it through will yield maximum output.

  • Seeking different perspectives -- As they say, “Two heads are better than one,” so why limit yourselves to your ideas, perspectives and experience? Encouraging input from others will make them feel more engaged and give a strong sense of  belonging. This will result in more confidence and better output.

  • Solving problems effectively -- Cutting through the superfluous clutter and finding out what is the most practical solution for any given problem is key in facilitating success. Think of the end goal--now what needs to happen in order to achieve it?

These are the most important behaviors a person must use in order to lead effectively. And in order for that to happen, quality sleep is critical.


We want everyone to be able to sleep better at night, so you wake up feeling rested, refreshed, and ready to take on the world. So to our leaders of today and tomorrow, we know that burning the midnight oil can sometimes be a necessary part of the job, but don’t sacrifice sleep in an effort to reach all of your goals.


And besides, hard work should be rewarded, and you’ve earned a good night’s sleep, right?


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