Great leaders have specific characteristics--for example, charisma and patience--that naturally draw others to them. They're likeable. And while there are little behavioral tricks you can use to convince people you're somebody worth hanging around, science says there's a simpler, highly enjoyable, less manipulative way to elicit genuine connection with others.
What helps others see you positively
Get more sleep.
That's it. Just make sure you're not skimping on your shuteye, and people likely will want your attention and follow you better.
As Christopher Barnes points out for Harvard Business Review, leadership behavior is variable--it can improve or decline. And in a study of 40 managers and 120 direct reports, Barnes and Christiano Guarana found that lack of sleep had a negative influence on boss-employee relationships. Sleep-deprived leaders were more irritable, antagonistic and impatient, which hindered their connections.
Even worse, the effect didn't go away over time, and the leaders were oblivious to it. The way the leaders acted translated to decreased ability to motivate their teams. Additional studies suggest that a leader's poor sleep means an increase of abusive behavior and decreased employee engagement, mood and even ethics. And employees don't see these leaders as being as charismatic.
How to get the recharge you need
Barnes notes effective techniques for getting more rest, such as
- Exercising (but not before bed)
- Limiting screens
- Using a sleep tracker
- Sleep disorder treatments
- Keeping a consistent schedule and bedtime
- Watching substance intake (e.g., caffeine)
- Relaxation and mindfulness
Many of these suggestions are great in that they can get your body and mind into a better state for sleep. But they don't solve the other biggest reason leaders don't make more love to their pillows--lack of time. Many leaders aren't sleeping as much as they should because they spend long hours at the office and then come home to household responsibilities, all while also trying to spend time with family and friends. The conundrum is particularly painful for serial entrepreneurs who have multiple irons in the business fire.
So what else do you do?
Yeah, I know. It's hard to do when your business is your baby and you feel like others won't handle tasks as well as you can. But here's a thought. If you can't trust somebody to step in for you, maybe they're not the right person to have in your company in the first place. And the more you show your employees you trust them to take the reins, the better light they'll see you in and trust you back, especially as your increase in rest makes you less of a grump. No one--not Musk, not Bezos, not Sandberg or Nooyi--has the logistical ability or the expertise to be in control of everything 100 percent of the time.
We already know that good sleep is essential for physical health and productivity. But Barnes' work adds still another layer to the picture and insists that sleep is a must for social wellbeing, too. It naturally allows the qualities people want in good leaders to shine through, no sacrifice of your authentic self required. So when it starts to get late tonight and the yawns creep in, hit pause, shuck the office apparel for cozy jammies and turn out the light. You really don't have anything better or more important to do.