Dear Exhausted Leader: It’s Time to Put YOUR Oxygen Mask On First

Dear Self Aware Leaders

Just this week, I stepped onto a plane headed for a much-needed work trip. As the familiar safety briefing began, the flight attendant’s voice caught my attention. “Remember,” she said, “in case of an emergency, please secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others.” Her next words hit me with newfound resonance: “…even though this trip is to Miami, I don’t want to see any of you underwater.”

It was a playful reminder, but it struck a deeper chord. In the heart of leadership, amongst its demands and the noble drive to serve, lies a paradox: we must sometimes withdraw to truly give. We all know the flight attendant’s instructions—secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others. But as leaders, do we truly live this principle?

I believe nurturing our own spirit is the most generous act we can perform for our teams and the world we seek to impact. When we deplete ourselves, it’s not just our personal energy that suffers. Our clarity dims, our empathy wanes, and our ability to inspire becomes strained. Without meaning to, we may offer a diminished version of our leadership potential.

Yet, when we prioritize our own wellness—not as a luxury but as a sacred responsibility – something profound happens. We refill our inner reserves. Just as a wellspring nourishes the land, we become sources of resilience, wisdom, and unwavering compassion for those we lead.

So, how do we nurture ourselves, especially in demanding roles?

Title: Dear Exhausted Leader: It’s Time to Put YOUR Oxygen Mask On First

Dear Self Aware Leaders

Just this week, I stepped onto a plane headed for a much-needed work trip. As the familiar safety briefing began, the flight attendant’s voice caught my attention. “Remember,” she said, “in case of an emergency, please secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others.” Her next words hit me with newfound resonance: “…even though this trip is to Miami, I don’t want to see any of you underwater.”

It was a playful reminder, but it struck a deeper chord. In the heart of leadership, amongst its demands and the noble drive to serve, lies a paradox: we must sometimes withdraw to truly give. We all know the flight attendant’s instructions—secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others. But as leaders, do we truly live this principle?

I believe nurturing our own spirit is the most generous act we can perform for our teams and the world we seek to impact. When we deplete ourselves, it’s not just our personal energy that suffers. Our clarity dims, our empathy wanes, and our ability to inspire becomes strained. Without meaning to, we may offer a diminished version of our leadership potential.

Yet, when we prioritize our own wellness—not as a luxury but as a sacred responsibility – something profound happens. We refill our inner reserves. Just as a wellspring nourishes the land, we become sources of resilience, wisdom, and unwavering compassion for those we lead.

So, how do we nurture ourselves, especially in demanding roles?

  1. Embrace Sacred Pauses: Carve out dedicated moments in your day for stillness—even a few minutes of mindful breathing or a walk in nature. These aren’t indulgences, but the very act of replenishing the well from which you give.
  2. Discover Joy’s Power: Actively fill your life with what brings you true joy. This isn’t about frivolous escapes, but honoring the unique things that light up your soul. A joyful leader radiates inspiration.
  3. Boundaries as Love: Saying ‘no’ with grace can be the most loving act. It protects your energy for the tasks that truly need your unique leadership. Train yourself, and your team, to respect your boundaries.
  4. Seek Growth with Humility: There’s always more to learn, more ways to see. Embrace a beginner’s mindset, seek out mentors, engage in personal development. This isn’t about striving, but expanding your capacity to serve.
  5. Honor the Body Temple: Your body is integral to your leadership. Mindfully nourish it with healthy foods, movement, and rest. A vibrant body steadies your spirit against the storms of the work world.
  6. Community as Sustenance: We are never meant to lead alone. Nurture a circle of trusted friends, colleagues, or a mentor where you can be vulnerable, receive honest feedback and be buoyed by authentic support.

Remember, this is a journey, not a destination. Some days will be harder than others. Embrace self-compassion—the most crucial skill for any leader. Be gentle when you fall short, then resolve to refocus. Just as a flight attendant reminds passengers of the safety priority, bring gentle reminders to your own mind.

The world needs leaders who operate from wholeness, presence, and a heart overflowing with love. Let’s choose to model that, starting with how we love ourselves. Each time you put your own ‘oxygen mask’ on, you grant permission for your team and those you serve to do the same. We rise together.

With warmth and encouragement,

Carve out dedicated moments in your day for stillness—even a few minutes of mindful breathing or a walk in nature. These aren’t indulgences, but the very act of replenishing the well from which you give.

  1. Discover Joy’s Power: Actively fill your life with what brings you true joy. This isn’t about frivolous escapes, but honoring the unique things that light up your soul. A joyful leader radiates inspiration.
  2. Boundaries as Love: Saying ‘no’ with grace can be the most loving act. It protects your energy for the tasks that truly need your unique leadership. Train yourself, and your team, to respect your boundaries.
  3. Seek Growth with Humility: There’s always more to learn, more ways to see. Embrace a beginner’s mindset, seek out mentors, engage in personal development. This isn’t about striving, but expanding your capacity to serve.
  4. Honor the Body Temple: Your body is integral to your leadership. Mindfully nourish it with healthy foods, movement, and rest. A vibrant body steadies your spirit against the storms of the work world.
  5. Community as Sustenance: We are never meant to lead alone. Nurture a circle of trusted friends, colleagues, or a mentor where you can be vulnerable, receive honest feedback and be buoyed by authentic support.

Remember, this is a journey, not a destination. Some days will be harder than others. Embrace self-compassion—the most crucial skill for any leader. Be gentle when you fall short, then resolve to refocus. Just as a flight attendant reminds passengers of the safety priority, bring gentle reminders to your own mind.

The world needs leaders who operate from wholeness, presence, and a heart overflowing with love. Let’s choose to model that, starting with how we love ourselves. Each time you put your own ‘oxygen mask’ on, you grant permission for your team and those you serve to do the same. We rise together.

With warmth and encouragement,

Jason