by Tarra Mitchell, author of “The Yoga of Leadership: A Practical Guide to Health, Happiness, And Inspiring Total Team Engagement“
When we think about the qualities of an ideal leader, words like “decisive,” “charismatic,” “visionary”, and “resilient” may come to mind.
Yet we don’t always consider how to maintain qualities like these. Often, the word ‘leadership’ is correlated simply with holding a position of power. By focusing on words and labels alone, the deeper responsibility of being a leader—in fact the very essence of the word ‘leader’ itself — becomes distorted.
In a more apt definition, leaders performing at an optimal level are awake, aware, and inspiring. They are resilient, have control of their mind and senses and can see life at a deeper level — thus inspiring their teams to strive for and reach their highest possible level of work. They also do their personal best to serve as positive examples — including by taking care of their physical health, cultivating mental strength and resilience, and operating with principle and purpose.
It is particularly important for leaders to maintain their holistic health because a team is neither inspired nor motivated by leaders who are depleted, depressed, or disconnected. Neither are they motivated by leaders who are anxious and uncontrolled. Self-awareness and self-care are mandatory prerequisites to performance and success.
And still we are depleted, depressed and disconnected as a society. The average human attention span dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8.25 sec in 2015, putting us now below the 9 second attention span of a goldfish. The average office worker checks their email 30 times an hour. Media overload is the sixth top cause of stress in the U.S. including all forms of Media ranging from television to social media.
Breaking from that cycle, I created a yoga-inspired approach that includes a more comprehensive examination of how we can become the best leaders possible. The dimensions this approach considers includes:
- Physical: diet, exercise, yoga asana, sleep
- Energy: conscious breathing, communication
- Mind: self-observation, self-awareness, perspective
- Knowledge: space, meditation
- Bliss: Principle-led living, finding your purpose, and doing things that bring you joy
By considering the health of each of our dimensions we can move beyond our disconnected tendencies, cultivating qualities essential to leadership success.
Because the truth is, our personal wellbeing is directly connected to leadership success. To function fully as a leader, we need to be happy, healthy, and connected to ourselves and our lives so we can engage, motivate, and even inspire our teams. We do this by taking care of ourselves. If leaders are not fully functioning, they can’t be there fully for their teams or their families.
My yoga teacher Rolf Gates once said to us quite early in our year-long teacher training, “We do yoga for ourselves and others.” He said it a lot. I didn’t get it at first.
Now it has become the mantra that has guided the last five years of my research. I’ll state it a little differently:
We take care of our holistic health for ourselves and others.
Inspiring leaders have great habits of health and wellbeing. They invest in their success by investing in themselves. When you truly begin to realize how much you can positively enhance the lives of others through your own good example, being your best self offers life meaning and purpose.
Tarra Mitchell, author of “The Yoga of Leadership“, is integrating her distinctive background in business and yoga to contribute to the great conversation around leadership and consciousness. Her keen ability to connect with people led to an investment career directing billion-dollar fundraising events and developing relationships around the world. Tarra has practiced yoga for over twenty years and has studied extensively with master yoga teachers and private mentors.