There is an old adage that people leave companies because of bad leadership. In 2017 bad bosses were the most common reason cited for employees who left their jobs. These bad bosses are normally characterised as narcissistic, bad-tempered, egomaniacal and controlling, but one common causal characteristic which is usually left out is sleep-deprived.

Effective and inspirational leadership is nigh-on impossible when sleep-deprived. A recent study found that sleep-deprived leaders were more impatient, irritable, antagonistic, and vitally substandard communicators, resulting in worse working relationships. Underslept bosses were also significantly more likely to exhibit the abusive behaviours which are commonly cited when employees leave their positions. Even more worryingly these leaders were oblivious to these negative dynamics so lacked the awareness to address them. This means when the boss doesn’t get enough sleep the whole team pay the penalty. 

Whatever type of leader you are it is essential to recognise the negative impact sleep deprivation can have on your leadership abilities. Once sleep has been recognised as a fundamental element of effective leadership the next step is to consider the different approaches which can be taken to change these destructive behaviours.

Education is at the heart of any substantial behaviour change. Therefore, understanding the implications of sleep deprivation is vital in order to instil a motivation to address the problem. One way to achieve this is through training. Implementing a training program which inspires good sleep behaviour can have a highly positive impact on wellbeing and help begin to address any disconnect between leadership and other team members.  This will also encourage a culture of open communication surrounding sleep in the workplace to ensure intervening steps can be taken if anyone is struggling with sleep deprivation.

Learning about night-time sleep is only half the story, introducing nap spaces can be incredibly beneficial when trying to cure sleep deprivation in the office. A nap can speed up cognitive processing, decrease errors, and increase stamina. But most importantly for leadership, a 20 minute power nap will make you more tolerant, lower your frustration, increase your empathy, enable you to listen attentively, all of which lead to better communication and relationships. Not only can this increase the productivity of a team as a whole, but also improve the mood of the working environment and improve employee retention. 

If you make sleep a priority, then you foster a workspace where inspirational leadership can thrive, and maybe in this environment, any so-called bad bosses won’t seem so bad after all. 

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