Good Sleep Is Linked To Good Leadership: Study

by CXOtoday News Desk    Mar 03, 2016


The sleep pattern among global leaders not only varies but is also highly debatable. Take for example the tech industry where the stress levels are very high. While successful leaders like Twitter founder and Square CEO Jack Dorsey and Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer, among other have claimed they only need 4-5 hours of sound sleep in the night, others like Bill Gates is known to sleep for 7-9 hours each night.

A recent study from McKinsey finds a link between adequate sleep and quality leadership. Nick van Dam, the global chief learning officer at consulting firm McKinsey, and Els van der Helm, McKinsey sleep specialist, surveyed of 180 business leaders for a study and found that 43 percent said they do not get enough sleep at least four nights a week. The researchers stated that not getting sleep between 7-8 hours each night can have negative affects on your leadership ability.

Those senior business leaders who skillfully and consciously manage their sleep, emerging refreshed and alert after crossing multiple time zones or working late into the night. Yet we all know caffeinated and careworn executives who, after hours of wakeful slumber, struggle to recall simple facts, seem disengaged and uninspired, lack patience with others, and can’t think through problems or reach clear-cut decisions.

According to McKinsey researchers, while sleep or lack of it could be an individual issue, there could also be other forms of mental relaxation, such as mindfulness and meditation, as well as nutrition and physical activity. “In an increasingly hyperconnected world, in which many companies now expect their employees to be on call and to answer emails 24/7, this is also an important organizational topic that requires specific and urgent attention,” they said.

Read more: High Stress Levels Force IT Pros To Quit Jobs

“There’s a very strong correlation between restfulness and leadership,” according to Jessica Payne, associate professor and director of the Sleep Stress and Memory Lab at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. “The majority of people need seven to nine hours of sleep and the majority of people don’t get that much,” cites Payne. It’s as important as diet and exercise, she added.

Lack of sleep is also having a long term damage on CXOs. Payne stated in her article, “Memory problems, issues with decision-making, lack of creativity and regulating personal emotions are some of the first areas to be diminished by lack of sleep.”

One effective way for senior leaders is taking a “power nap”, stated Payne stressing on the importance of naps as one of the most significant steps in becoming a successful individual and leader.

Read more: Leadership Notes: The Forgotten Art of Letting Go

Experts also noted that sleep-awareness programs can produce better leaders. The most famous example of a company embracing this advice is Google, well-known for their nap parties and pods where employees can go in and curl up.

For senior leaders in tech who are still wondering how to manage sleep in their daily schedule, the researchers recommend incorporating a “mindfulness period” or “restful wakefulness” that will help relieve stress and rejuvenate the brain, in turn making leaders more effective and better at their jobs.