top of page

Always put your own oxygen mask on first!

Maintaining a healthy work–life balance is essential for you as a leader as it not only benefits your well-being but also sets a positive example for your teams. At TwentyOne leadership one of our core values is ‘Balance’. Recently I’ve been reflecting on what this means on a personal level and the impact it has in providing amazing learning experiences with our clients.

The idea of putting one’s own oxygen mask on first before helping others is often used as a metaphor for self-care and self-preservation, especially in leadership contexts. If you don’t look after yourself first, then you won’t be able to help others.

I first became aware of this brilliant concept from Kim Scott’s book, Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity. In the book, Kim discusses the importance of self-care and self-preservation for leaders using the metaphor of putting on your own oxygen mask first on an airplane before assisting others.

Here’s why, as a leader, you should prioritise taking care of yourself:

Setting the Example: Serve as a role model for your team. When leaders prioritise their well-being and self-care, it sends a message to your team that self-care is essential and should be part of the organisational culture.

Improving Your Decision-Making: When you are physically and mentally well-rested, you’re more likely to make better decisions. Exhaustion can impair cognitive function and lead to poor judgment. Leaders who take time for themselves often gain a more balanced perspective. They can step back from immediate problems, think more strategically, and make decisions that consider long-term consequences.

Preventing Burnout: Leadership positions can be highly demanding and stressful. If you neglect self-care you’re more susceptible to burnout, which can have severe consequences for your health and your ability to lead effectively.

Here are some strategies for you to achieve and maintain a healthy work–life balance:

Set Clear Boundaries: Establish clear boundaries between work and personal life. Define specific work hours and stick to them as closely as possible. Communicate these boundaries to your team and encourage respect for them.

Prioritise Tasks: Focus on the most important and high-impact tasks first. Delegate tasks that can be handled by others. Avoid overloading yourself with unnecessary work.

Delegate Responsibility: Trust your team to handle their responsibilities and avoid micromanaging. Empower your team members to make decisions and solve problems independently.

Learn to Say No: Don’t overcommit yourself. Politely decline additional tasks or projects that you cannot take on without sacrificing your personal time or quality of work.

Self-Care: Make time for activities that promote your physical and mental well-being, such as exercise, meditation, hobbies, and spending quality time with loved ones.

To find out more about our leadership coaching and the ALIGNED® talent model, please contact me at so we can continue the conversation.


bottom of page