Self-Leadership also Means Self-Care

Some time ago, I mentioned in my article that if we want to become better leaders, we have to start with being a leader of ourselves.  It means we have to lead by example. We have to have values that match our words and actions. We have to step of our comfort zone to grow to become a better version of ourselves.

To me, self-leadership also includes something important: self-care.

Self-Leadership = self-care

We cannot inspire, motivate, help or support others if we are not healthy. And when I say ‘healthy’, I mean ‘mentally and physically healthy’.

When I had my car accident 21 years ago, I had to stay in the hospital for 3 months. During these 3 months, I had to stay and lie in bed for 6 weeks, without being able to stand or even sit. This accident made me realize how precious life is, how precious our health is and that without it, we are of no use to anyone. The doctors told me I recovered so well because I stayed positive throughout this whole experience. They also said I recovered quickly because I was in ‘good shape’ i.e. not overweight, or having some health issues such as too much cholesterol, or diabetes. We often take our health for granted until something happens, our life changes within a few seconds and we realize that our health is the most important thing we have.

The second time I realized that we also need to be mentally healthy is when I had a burnout. I was doing a job I did not like. I had nice colleagues, but the job was challenging me in the wrong way. So I was stressed and brought my stress home. Because I was stressed, I did not sleep well. Because I did not sleep well. I was more and more tired. So I no longer went dancing (which used to help me get rid of my stress). I was in a vicious circle. Until I was forced to break it. I could no longer work and stayed at home for 2 months. Here again, I realized that even if I was physically healthy, I still was of no use to anyone, not even myself, as I was no longer able to think properly or even relax! I had stretched my resources too thin… This was another powerful lesson.

What I learned from these experiences

The body is a powerful machine. It tells you everything that is important if you take the time to listen to it.

We need to learn to take time for ourselves to exercise, to meditate/pray, and to eat healthily. We need to take some time to relax. Getting enough sleep, spending time with our family and friends, and doing things we like are necessary activities so that we can recharge our batteries. When the battery of a phone is close to empty, we are quick to recharge it as soon as we can. Why don’t we recharge ours when we are tired, feel drained, cannot concentrate, or start having all kinds of issues (such as headaches, backaches, stomachaches, etc.)? Why do we often wait until it’s almost too late?  I’ve learned it the hard way with my burnout. The body is a powerful machine. It tells you everything that is important if you take the time to listen to it.

These 2 experiences are the main reasons why I dance salsa 💃🏽. With salsa, I found my passion. Salsa is not only my workout, it’s also my (mental and physical) stress relief. When I dance, I can let go of everything and focus on myself, the music, and what my dance partner wants me to do. Salsa gave me confidence. It gave me some ‘me time’. It helped me become a better leader and a better follower. The list goes on and on…

So what does that mean?

That means we need to continue learning new things and unlearning others. We need to develop and improve our skills. This means also starting new habits and getting rid of others. Getting rid of people who put us down, are jealous or criticize us and surround ourselves with people that support us, encourage us and motivate us to become a better person.

Finally, this means to be aware of ourselves, of our body, and our emotions. Any negative signal we get (even if it’s just a headache) is a sign that we need to take care of ourselves more.

Taking care of ourselves is NOT selfish. It is the right thing to do. If we are not (physically or mentally) healthy, we, as leaders, simply cannot help ourselves and others.

Our mental and physical health should always be our number 1 priority.


Virginie Lemay
Virginie Lemay
Virginie Lemay is an international Leadership Trainer/Coach/Consultant based out of Luxembourg. She is originally French but has been an expatriate for more than 25 years. She fluently speaks 5 languages (French, English, German, Dutch, and Italian) and has lived in 6 different countries. With more than 20 years experience leading international/virtual teams, Virginie is a true advocate for Diversity and Inclusion, She worked in senior leadership roles in big international organizations such as Amazon. Virginie combines her two passions (training/coaching and dancing) and helps people Succeed in the Adventures of Leadership and Self Assurance (SALSA). She basically turns professionals into global leaders by improving their communication, international leadership skills, and confidence. Virginie is also the author of the book "My revenge on life", where she shares how to become the leader of your own life and flourish in the midst of seemingly hopeless circumstances. You can find more information on her website and LinkedIn listed above.

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  1. Yes ~ I Ab-SOUL-utely agree with you, Virginie! 💗 My “Conscious Self-Care” began with a cancer diagnosis and continues each and every day as ‘every intentional choice that supports my physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, and creative well-being’. We are full of life experiences from which we learn, grow, and share. It is the compassionate leader who can see themselves in others without judgment. Those are the leaders who look within, practice self-care, and lovingly embrace the fullness of who they are. It is through those eyes and their compassionate heart that others feel safe, nurtured, seen, and valued.

    • Love your ‘Ab-SOUL-utely’ Amy! 💗 You’re right: each experience teaches us something and helps us grow in all areas of our life. Compassion is a needed skill nowadays, probably more than ever. Thank you for your precious contribution!

  2. Virgine,
    I absolutely love the notion of “self-leadership”. We all must be responsible for our own self care. I do believe that sometimes we must go thru those meltdowns/burnouts to really understand our own limitations and then set the boundaries. And this is a super powerful statement: “That means we need to continue learning new things and unlearning others.” It is the only way to break the cycle. #selfleadership

    • I agree Carolyn. I would not be who I am now if I had not had all these challenges. They help us truly understand our limitations, set the priorities and also challenge us to go beyond things we may not have thought possible. Thank you.