In one of my previous companies, one day, all the employees received an email from HR. This was regarding the Journey of one of the Senior Executives, who has just been promoted to C-Suite. In the email, the other executives’ verbatims were mentioned. One clear theme that emerged was how this person is able to work almost 24 hours a day. I very vividly remember someone had said, “he was out with us till 4 in the morning; I barely made it to the 8 am meeting but he was already ready with the presentation ready and good to go”. Although at the time Sleep hadn’t become such a big issue as it is now, I felt there was something off with the example and pitch, and tone. I grew up learning your body is a temple, a balanced diet, and a well-rested mind is much more productive.
We live in a world that glamorizes the “hustle” culture, the value of quality sleep is often undervalued, if not entirely overlooked. However, sleep’s undeniable influence on leadership abilities has begun to break through research papers and practical examples. Sleep, as it turns out, is not just a biological necessity but a significant ingredient in the recipe for successful leadership.
When we think of successful leaders, we often picture individuals with relentless energy, boundless creativity, and unshakeable resilience. While these qualities are indeed cornerstones of effective leadership, they are intrinsically linked to one often underestimated, yet crucial, factor— Good Quality Sleep. Sleep has the power to shape successful leaders, from the bedroom to the boardroom.
The Sleep-Leadership Connection
The first step towards understanding the connection between sleep and leadership is recognizing that sleep isn’t merely a passive state of rest. It’s an active period of rejuvenation for our bodies and minds. to A good night’s sleep is integral to Cognitive functioning, Memory consolidation, Emotional Regulation, and Creativity—elements that are crucial to leadership.
In a 2017 McKinsey survey, 43% of leaders reported not getting enough sleep at least four nights a week. McKinsey also concluded that leaders who get adequate sleep tend to be significantly more effective in their roles, meaning taking the right decisions, progressing in their careers, and setting leadership examples for the team and organization. This isn’t surprising when you consider that sleep deprivation negatively impacts cognitive functions such as decision-making, emotional intelligence, and problem-solving, key competencies in leadership.
Sleep and Decision Making
One of the biggest elements in Leadership is making the decision. The higher up you go, the more complex the situations get. And more often than not, these are not technical problems; these require probability, logic, people skills, navigating uncertainty, and time crunch. Numerous studies have demonstrated that sleep deprivation significantly slows the area of the brain that helps in the above dimensions. It impairs our ability to assess situations accurately, calculate risks, consider the long-term implications of our actions, and deal with uncertainty.
On the other hand, a good night’s sleep not only helps replenish our mental stamina but also provides a clearer perspective on the challenges at hand. It gives us the mental clarity to weigh our options, foresee the consequences of our actions, and make decisions that drive our teams and organizations forward.
Sleep and Creativity
Creativity is another important quality that leaders need to navigate the complexities of the modern business world. It’s what drives innovation, helps solve complex problems, and fosters a culture of continuous improvement. Research suggests that REM sleep—the deep, dream-filled phase of our sleep cycle—plays a significant role in boosting creativity.
During REM sleep, our brains are highly active, processing information from the day, making sense, forming neural connections, and consolidating memories. This period of rest allows our minds to make unusual and abstract connections that might not be possible in our waking hours, thereby nurturing our creative capacities.
Sleep and Emotional Intelligence
Effective leadership isn’t just about making good decisions and coming up with creative solutions. If you are the top leader in your company, community, or what have you, people management is 80% of the task. People management means understanding their emotions, priorities, skill sets, and dynamics among them and navigating appropriately. Studies show that lack of sleep can make us more susceptible to negative emotions like stress, anxiety, and frustration, hindering our ability to connect with others on an emotional level.
Conversely, quality sleep equips us with greater emotional resilience. Well-rested leaders are more likely to exhibit empathy, maintain composure in stressful situations, and build stronger relationships—traits that inspire trust and respect among their teams.
In conclusion, one certain path to successful leadership starts in the unlikeliest of places—your bedroom. A good night’s sleep is more than a biological necessity; it’s a strategic tool for becoming a better leader. So, the question arises how to sleep better? If you are a student or a young professional I will highly recommend you read “How to sleep better”, an article I wrote some time back. If you are a leader, I have developed a set of unique techniques, which I will be happy to share. In the end, remember, every moment of Good Sleep is a step toward becoming a more effective leader, from the Bedroom to the Boardroom.