Research shows that lack of sleep can significantly affect our mental abilities. We lose focus.
Lack of sleep hampers logical reasoning and complex thought and impairs our judgment. These skills are all crucial for a leader to effectively manage the organisation. So if you, as a leader, are not getting enough sleep, the whole organisation can be affected as well.
How It Affects Leadership
The last part of our brain to evolve is the neocortex; it’s responsible for motor functions, sensory perception, and language. The front part of it is called the prefrontal cortex which controls cognitive functions such as problem-solving, organising, reasoning, inhibition and planning.
Neuroscientists have determined that the prefrontal cortex cannot function well with little sleep compared to the other brain areas that can still cope with little sleep.
According to a McKinsey study, there are four leadership behaviours connected to the higher-order cognitive functions that quality executives exhibit:
- being results-oriented,
- effective problem-solving,
- seeking out different perspectives,
- and supporting others.
Not getting enough sleep can affect these skills and behaviours, leading to poor leadership.
A result-oriented leader keeps their sights on the organisation’s goals and avoids distractions while seeing the bigger picture. Lack of sleep affects this since it impairs attention and concentration.
According to research, 17 to 19 hours of wakefulness affects individual performance and is akin to a person with a blood-alcohol level of 0.05%, which is already the legal drinking limit in many countries. 20 hours of wakefulness is equivalent to someone with a blood-alcohol level of 0.1 percent.
Problem Solving Ability
Sleep also improves cognitive functions that help us solve problems, such as insight, pattern recognition, and creativity. In one study, participants who enjoyed a good night’s sleep were twice as likely to discover new insights.
Similarly, taking a nap also helps with creative problem-solving. Research has established that creative thinking likely happens during dream sleep.
Seeking And Weighing Different Perspectives
Sleep also has quite the impact on the learning process: encoding new information, forming new connections, and retrieving information from memory.
These processes are critical to seeking different perspectives, especially for leaders who need to weigh the significance of other inputs, avoid tunnel vision, and reduce cognitive bias. Getting enough sleep will help improve decision-making in such situations. Even science supports the advice that you should sleep on it when making an important decision.
Being a good support for others requires interpreting non-verbal cues such as facial expressions and their tone of voice to determine their emotions. Being sleep-deprived makes you more likely to misinterpret these cues and overreact to emotional events. Your mood is more likely to be negative and cause you to be less trusting of other people. And having a cranky boss also makes employees less engaged with their work.
What Can Organisations Do?
So what can organisations do to improve sleep quality for the members, especially the leaders, for better efficiency at work? McKinsey has two recommendations.
- Developing training programs to raise awareness and create behavioural change, such as blended learning programs on the importance of sleep.
- Reworking company policies to encourage a good night’s sleep. Some examples are blackout times on email, setting limits on work time hours, mandatory vacations, and napping rooms, to name a few.
It’s time for organisations to place importance on the well-being of their employees and the management to counter the lost productivity and health conditions caused by insufficient sleep. Tell us how your company looks out for its members’ physical and mental wellbeing by starting a conversation with the best IT recruitment consultants in Melbourne, Canberra, Adelaide and Brisbane by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 1300 544 652.