Sleep-awareness programs can produce better leaders


A really interesting article, written by Nick van Dam, McKinsey’s global chief learning officer and Els van der Helm tells about what sleep “mis-management” can do, not only for an individual, but also on a larger corporate level. The article actually encourages companies to take sleep management seriously.

In an increasingly hyper-connected world, in which many companies now expect their employees to be on call and to answer emails 24/7, sleep management is an important organizational topic that requires specific and urgent attention. Research shows the effects of insufficient sleep and it is pretty obvious that just a small reduction of sleep affects your capabilities at work, and particularly leadership qualities and abilities.

Research has shown that sleep-deprived brains lose the ability to make accurate judgments. The article demonstrates that sleep deficiencies impair the performance of corporate executives, notably by undermining important forms of leadership behavior, and can thereby actually hurt financial performance. The authors show in the article the link between sleep and leadership behavior and discuss solutions that can improve both individual well-being and organizational efficiency and effectiveness. Very interesting!

According to the article scientists have found that sleep deprivation impairs ability to focus attention selectively. Research shows that after roughly 17 to 19 hours of wakefulness (let’s say at 11 PM or 1 AM for someone who got up at 6 AM), individual performance on a range of tasks is equivalent to that of a person with a blood-alcohol level of 0.05 percent. After roughly 20 hours of wakefulness (2 AM), this same person’s performance equals that of someone with a blood-alcohol level of 0.1 percent, which meets the legal definition of drunkenness in the United States.

Sleep is highly beneficial for cognitive functions, such as insight, pattern recognition, and the ability to come up with innovative and creative ideas—that help us solve problems effectively and that is key to leadership, right? Sleep has been shown to also improve decision making.

Another important ability for leaders to care about is understanding others, which is also affected by sleep deprivation. To help other people, you must first understand them—for example, by interpreting the emotions on their faces or their tone of voice. In a sleep-deprived state, your brain is more likely to misinterpret these cues and to overreact to emotional events and you tend to express your feelings in a more negative manner and tone of voice, according to this article.

These are just a few areas that are affected by sleep and the article truly highlights the benefits of sleep and what can happen if you don’t get your hours.

The authors also suggest ideas for companies to implement regarding sleep. I must say this is an important article and should be read, particularly if you are working as a leader.

To read the complete article; The organizational cost of insufficient sleep, by Nick van Dam and Els van der Helm, click here. The article was published at in February 2016.

Picture borrowed from The Organic Pharmacy



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