Business Columns & Blogs

On Sundays, I listen to music while I polish my nails. It helps my coworkers. Really.


At this time of year, we often set self-improvement goals. If your job is to lead others, you owe it to them to first take care of yourself.

It may seem counterintuitive to focus on yourself to be a better leader, but in fact it is a generous endeavor. If you overextend yourself and thus become emotionally depleted or physically exhausted, you are less likely to deliver what others need from you.

Perhaps you’ve noticed that in the preflight briefing, you are instructed that in case of emergency, you should first secure your own oxygen mask before helping others. Though that may seem selfish, it is actually a wise and kind act. If you are taken care of, you are then in a position to serve others. The same goes for those in leadership roles.

This lesson became clear to me several years ago when a member of my team came into my office early one Monday morning and commented that she thought it was going to be a good day. I asked what made her say so, and she replied that she noticed my new manicure and then concluded the day — maybe even the week — would go well. Puzzled, I asked again how she knew. She replied that she had noticed on Mondays if my nails were polished that I would typically be in a good mood.

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Linda Clark-Santos Boise State University

I then reflected on my new habit of setting aside an hour on Sunday afternoon to listen to soothing music while I did my nails. Afterward, I would ride my exercise bicycle while they dried. This ritual refreshed both mind and body, but I had never imagined that such a practice would make a noticeable difference in my mood and approach to my work. Thereafter, on Monday mornings, I would often swing by her office to show off my nails and jest that I had done my manicure for the sake of the team.

Consider what changes you could make in your daily or weekly routines that would replenish your patience and build resilience. Your team might thank you.

Linda Clark-Santos has extensive leadership experience in both the public and private sectors.