Are you rested enough to be an inspiring leader?

Sleep deprivation happens to all of us at one time or another.

Many of us will have a night when the work we bring home takes a lot longer than expected, or a little one is up sick, or you just can’t sleep for one reason or another.

The next day was pretty ugly, wasn’t it?

You were constantly yawning, your mind wasn’t able to focus, and you were downright grouchy.  That was because of only one night of less sleep.

Imagine being a person whose work or life constantly leaves them with little time for sleep.  Now imagine trying to do well and enjoy the workday, when you’re always sleep deprived. If all of this sounds familiar and you’re also a team leader, then there are some things to think about.

Recently,  Christopher Barnes, an Associate Professor at the University of Washington, undertook some research to explain the link between sleep-deprived leaders and uninspired teams or followers.  The study showed not only the negative effect sleep-deprived leaders had on their underlings, but also the positive effect of leaders working on regular sleep.


When the leader is working on a full, restful night of sleep, he/she has a more natural, positive mood.  The leader’s positive state makes the management and display of emotions better.

These signals are picked-up and seen as positives by team members, and cause the leader to be seen as more charismatic.

Teams will often pick up on cues provided by the leader, and, as a result, will be happier and have a more positive outlook themselves. A more positive attitude for team members means a higher level of confidence not only regarding the leader, but also for their own performance.

Of course, not all environments are blessed with a rested, charismatic leader.  What effect can a tired, unfocused, and grouchy leader have on his/her team?

Exactly the opposite. If the leader is working on less than an optimal amount of sleep, his/her emotional regulation and display suffer.  This results in them being perceived as less charismatic and inspiring.

If you have subordinates who are sleep deprived as well, then that becomes a double-edged sword. Sleep deprived subordinates are lower in positive emotion and are grumpy. This makes them difficult to inspire and increases the chances of them seeing you as less charismatic. Just like you would need the best machete if you were in the bush, you need the sharpest mind to lead your subordinates out of the woods.


Many leaders are sleep-deprived most of the time. Furthermore, they might cause their team to be low on sleep as well, by expecting them to engage in work at odd hours.

The lesson is simple. If you want to be a better and more charismatic leader, make an extra effort to ensure you and your team are well rested.

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