Does the early bird leader get the worm?

Are you an early riser or do you hit the snooze button until it can be hit no more? Or are you one of those who prefer to work while the rest of the world sleeps?

Although there are exceptions to every rule, overwhelming evidence seems to indicate a consistent correlation between early risers and successfully engaged leaders.

Many in leadership incorrectly assume their most important asset is their time; an assumption based on the premise that because people are always clamouring for it, it must be extremely valuable. While there’s no doubt that time is precious, it’s by no means the only significant asset. If fact, when it comes to leaders, energy and ability to energise others (the vision, values and culture of the team) as well as the energising of new initiatives, is top of the list. Quite simply what’s truly special in a great leader is their ability to mobilise others.

Early to bed – early to rise
Benjamin Franklin once said, “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” Giving credibility to his thinking – to this day, some of the most successful and honourable people in history across the business, political and sports world have all publicly stated that getting up early is one of their keys to success. People like Mahatma Gandhi, Thomas Edison and Nelson Mandela were all early risers. It’s no coincidence that so many successful people get up early rather than work late.

Mornings hold the key to taking control of our schedules and if we use them wisely, we can build habits that will allow us to lead more productive and ultimately happier lives.

Besides the obvious benefit of missing the traffic – this morning time allows us to gain control and to plan how to get ahead. Without exception great leaders create time to be alone in the morning. Former PepsiCo chairman and CEO Steve Reinemund would rise at 5:00 am, run four miles, pray, and eat breakfast with his family before heading to work to run a Fortune 500 company. Richard Branson confirms that he wakes up at around 5:45am, even when at his private island, using those early hours to exercise before breakfast, and then doing his best work of the day.
So while many of us are still in bed, leaders are scoring daily victories to improve their health, careers, and personal lives without sacrificing their sanity.

Early mornings and exercise

Many leaders use this early morning time for exercise which boosts mood, fitness and energy (further energising through the creation of deeper sleep cycles). When you have your health, you have everything. When you do not have your health, nothing else matters at all.

Early mornings and attitude
Not just a theory, Harvard biologist Christoph Randler discovered in 2008 that early risers are more proactive. His research indicated that “morning people” are more likely to anticipate problems and minimise them efficiently, which leads to more success in the office. Interestingly various studies also reveal that morning people tend to exhibit character traits like optimism, being agreeable, satisfaction and conscientiousness. Just what a leader needs to energise ideas among teams.

For some leaders routinely meditating as part of an early morning routine is what helps them keep perspective. They even see it as a way to develop patience and improve work performance. For others it’s a combination of things, including practising a digital detox over weekends to ensure the brain and soul have time to reboot – thereby returning to work calmer on a Monday.

Regardless of how leaders choose to energise, there is no denying that leadership is demanding; there are always fresh challenges that need time, focus and attention. This calls for a game plan that allows the leader the time out to re-energise for optimal long term performance.

So if you, like every other leader, wants to be a better version of who you are, the rule of thumb says get a head start, literally, every day, by training to be an early riser and in so doing manage your output better for greater success.

By Lauren Durant, director of Isilumko Activate Director

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