A lot of discussion in leadership blogs, books and articles focuses on the importance of being a serving leader rather than a self serving leader. The notion of not putting yourself first as a leader and ensuring you are there to serve, teach and develop others and look for ways to add value at all levels.

I am an advocate of being a serving leader. It is something that I aspire to be every day. However, the realisation for me over the last couple of months is that this needs to be balanced with looking after yourself first as a leader. You are of limited value over the long term to your organisation, teams and stakeholders if you do not place the oxygen mask on yourself first.

Why do we struggle to do this? Is it driven by a need to please or motivated by external validation? The need to be the best, not rock the boat or get things perfect for others which comes at a high personal cost. This personal cost can include strained relationships, a lack of time with family, long working hours, stress and worry or a lack of focus on fitness and health.

Personally, I have not put myself first for a long time as a leader. My health and fitness has been a distant companion due to me not putting enough importance on it. My family can sometimes feel that work and the development of our staff come first. It has been a number of years since I attended a training course purely focused on my own personal growth.

There can be no blame on others for this from me and other leaders who find themselves in a similar predicament. It comes from our own neglect of not focussing on being a great role model not only in leadership but all areas of our life. Being a role model when it comes to leadership is about putting yourself first as a manager. A focus on fitness and well-being, family, relationships and doing what is right will be my focus as I continue to balance the need to serve others and myself.

Ensure you say no to others to focus on yourself first. This is a mantra for effective and sustainable leadership that requires a strength that can only come from you.