Better Leader also Sleeps Better. But Why?

Pekko Vehviläinen, Evolv Oy – may 2019

Less sleep, more work, better results? Quite the opposite!

We all have read articles about leaders that can manage with only 3-4 hours of sleep yet delivering amazing results for their companies. However, almost none of those stories are simply not true.

Recently, the performance of modern leader is being recognized as an important factor in a company’s success.

What it means, that leader’s wellbeing, including their sleep, plays an important role in today’s business environment. How exactly? Luckily, with the help of science, we now know more.1

How Does Sleep Deprivation Affect to a Leader?

Well-rested leader does not only perform better, but she is more respected, she engages her employees better, and makes also them sleep better.1

Tired Leader exhibits poor behaviour

In a recent study2, the sleep of 40 managers and their 120 direct reports were measured, along with the quality of leader-employee relationships. What was found, that sleep-deprived leaders were more impatient, irritable, and antagonistic, which resulted in worse relationships. Moreover, the effect did not diminish over time. To make things even worse, the leaders were completely unaware of the negative dynamic.

Tired Leader is Less Charismatic

In another study3 88 leaders and their subordinates were asked to complete daily surveys for two weeks. When the bosses did not sleep well, they were likely to show abusive behavior on the following day. That, in turn, resulted in lower levels of engagement among the employees. The result? More tired the leader, more suffering to the whole team.

Sleep-Deprived Leader Deprives Sleep from her Employees too

Also, those leaders who discount the value of sleep can negatively impact not just emotions but also behaviors on their teams.

In a study1 where scenarios were created in which leaders communicated to their subordinates that sleep is unimportant, it was found that employees pay close attention to such cues and adjust their own behavior accordingly. Specifically, subordinates of such leaders who model and encourage poor sleep habits get about 25 fewer minutes of nightly rest with less quality than employees whose leaders value sleep.

How to Sleep (and Lead) Better?

A good night’s sleep is a sum of lot things, starting from your previous night’s sleep, your daily activity and exercise, the meals you have had during the day, your stress level, amount of alcohol consumed, and sleeping conditions.

Getting involved to a wellbeing program or coaching can give you insight about your wellbeing and practical advice how to improve the daily things affecting your sleep. Furthermore, your wellbeing can also improve with the help of right palette of modern technology, such as mobile meal diary, and activity and sleep trackers.

By becoming aware of your own wellbeing and those factors affecting your sleep, you can start to manage your sleep to the better. And as you learn how to lead yourself and your wellbeing, the others around you will reap the benefits, too!

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1Barnes, M. C. (September-October 2018). Sleep Well, Lead Better. Harvard Business Review. Harvard Business School Publishing. Haettu:

2Guarana, C. L., Barnes, M.C. (July 2017). Lack of sleep and the development of leader-follower relationships over time. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. Vol. 141. 57-73. Elsevier. Haettu:

3Barnes, C. M., Lucianetti, L., Bhave, D. B. & Christian, M. S. (03.11.2014). “You Wouldn’t Like Me When I’m Sleepy”: Leaders’ Sleep, Daily Abusive Supervision, and Work Unit Engagement. Academy of Management Journal. Vol. 58, No. 5. Academy of Management. Haettu:

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