Better Sleep May Help You Become a Better Leader

Better Sleep May Help You Become a Better Leader
The secret to success may be more sleep, not less, says a new study in the Journal of Applied Psychology. In this experiment, it was revealed that sleep affects one’s charisma – a factor which fosters inspiration and positive engagement within the workplace – is directly influenced by a well-rested mind.  

Sleep has long been associated with productivity, but here’s another thing it can give you: better charisma. Charismatic leaders, as defined by experts, are those who have a good sense of reverence and collective identity – someone who holds the group together with influence, effectivity, and brilliance. They are those who show great organization skills matched with employee satisfaction. Highly performing and socially capable, these leaders are what companies would want to manage their workforce.

However, this factor may be influenced by one’s night sleep. Even if one is innately optimistic, not getting enough rest may result to a downslide of emotions and productivity. This does not only happen in leaders; lack of sleep could affect employees’ charisma as well. Not getting enough Zzzs will make them feel less inspired to follow their designated bosses, making their workplace dysfunctional.

An experiment on charismatic leadership

Associate professor of management Christopher Barnes authored a study that tackles the correlation of sleep and charismatic leadership. In an experiment involving 88 students, Barnes and his team gathered two groups. For the first set, he allowed them to sleep normally. The others were asked to complete a survey during wee hours of the day, waking up ever hour between 10 pm and 5 pm to work on the task.

The next morning, these same students were asked to deliver a mock speech in a commencement ceremony, each given only 15 minutes to prepare. To add to the pressure, they were told that their speech would be videotaped. A panel, unaware of the students’ sleep conditions, rated each speech. The result: those whose sleep was disrupted were shown to be less charismatic, gaining 12% lower scores compared to those who got normal sleep.

At the end of their speeches, the participants answered a questionnaire that gauged their emotional quotient, such as if they pretended to have the emotions necessary to make the speech believable. Upon collecting the data, it was discovered that the sleep-deprived students were less able to mould their moods positively, making them less charismatic.

That wasn’t the end; another group of students were recruited to watch three videos pulled from the first set of participants. These videos were ranked by the panel as charismatic; the other, less charismatic; and the last, middling. Out of the 109 students in this group of watchers, half were sleep-deprived. The other half slept regularly. Unsurprisingly, the sleep-deprived students perceived the speakers to be 14% less charismatic, as compared to those who rested well.

Many psychologists think that leadership skills are fixed and innate, but this experiment showed otherwise. Sleep becomes a part of the equation; it affects one's emotional and intelligence quotient. Barnes was able to prove that sleep makes better leaders, and sleep makes better followers.

Sleep that nourishes leadership capacities

Global management firm McKinsey delved into the scientific element of this fact. The human brain has neocortex – the last part of the brain to evolve – responsible for many functions such as sensory, motor and language. Its prefrontal cortex directs what is called the executive functioning, tapping into higher cognitive processes such as problem-solving, organizing, reasoning, planning and executing. This part of the brain helps us get things done.

Neuroscientists know that while other parts of the brain can cope with little sleep, the prefrontal cortex cannot. This factor affects the overall capacity of one's leadership no matter what their specialization is. McKinsey has designated four types of leadership derived from 81 organizations and 189,000 employees all over the world and has matched mental skills affected by one's sleep. For the results oriented, sleep affects their attention and concentration. For the problem-solving experts, sleep plays a role in their creativity, insight development and pattern recognition. Leaders with the thrill of seeking other perspectives may struggle with learning, memory and decision making if they lack sleep. Charismatic leaders, those who support their team, may find it hard to comply with positive emotional reactions, socio-emotional processing and developing trusted relationships if they fail to get their rightful snooze.

How to develop better leaders

In a survey by McKinsey, 70% of the leaders responded that sleep management should be taught in organizations, just the same as communication skills and time management are discussed. Such programs, ideally, should be a part of a unified learning program that gives access to assessments, workshops, apps and tips regarding to sleep. Companies should embed sleep as training, McKinsey added, and it should be looked at in a broader approach that provides a more holistic lifestyle for its employees: mindfulness, energy management, nutrition and exercise.

Sleep is embedded into everyone's lifestyle, whatever type of work, whatever blend of crowd. It plays a crucial role in one's physical wellness, mental health and personal perspective. A boost of a good sleep can do wonders to the company far more than an overnight overhaul. Better sleep, better leaders, better followers, better businesses.

Jonas Diezun

Jonas is Co-Founder at RADICE. He is an avid reader, soccer player and loves hiking in the Munich mountains. He usually writes about productivity, sleep and the science behind both. He studied at in Munich and New York, and worked in Startups. His best advice for sleep? Have a fixed routine and see sleep & recreation as the most important pillar for your health. It determines everything.
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