The most obvious, yet crucial, “thing” overlooked in leadership

Are you an effective leader, operating on all cylinders, or are you overlooking something obvious, yet crucial? All-around leadership and collaboration expert Anese Cavanaugh weighs in and takes a stand for you with this article. I had the pleasure of interviewing Anese for an episode of the “Creative in Business” podcast where we talked about leadership from the inside out. Click here to listen to our episode.


By Anese Cavanaugh

If you’re familiar at all with my work or my stance, you’ll know that I’m a stand for leadership and that I get to work with super innovative companies and biz leaders to help hem create more effective leadership and impact in the world.

You’ll also know that, in my book, words like “self-care”, “energy”, “presence”, and “authenticity” go hand-in-hand with all things leadership.

When you see this, you’re likely to:

  1. Glaze over these words, and take them for granted – “Why of course!” Or,
  2. Pause, if just for a millisecond with a quiet thought leaning to connect “What ‘self-care’ and ‘energy’ are doing in the same sentence as leadership?” Or,
  3. Think it’s woo-woo or extraneous… “Geesh! No time for that stuff, I’ve got a business to lead! Woo woo is for the weary.” (Or whatever your version of this might be.) Or,
  4. Have this hit you in a whole new way, with a whole new meaning, and impact on your very leadership soul.

If I had to vote, I’d have you in the #1, #2, or #4 camp… and if not, totally cool, let’s take a walk…


Your quality of self-care and energy is directly proportional to your quality of, and potential for, fabulous leadership.

After doing this work in many capacities for over 23 years, working with anyone (from athletes, CEOs, and project teams, to moms and dads), and anywhere (from on the field, in the board room, in the project room, or in the living room)…here’s what I find over and over again:

Our quality of self-care is a reflection of our connection to, and relationship with, ourselves. It is also directly proportional to the level of energy, clarity, and personal awareness and congruency we create internally. And this is all directly proportional to the amount of trust and credibility and clarity we create externally with those we lead.

And this is not just self-care in the way you might think. It’s not just about eating right or exercising or getting your zzz’s… it’s about leading ourselves right in all things “care”. Taking care of ourselves – in every way, mind, body and spirit – so that we can take care of, and engage with, others even more powerfully.


Julie* is a CEO, she’s brilliant. She’s created a fabulous company and a great team to lead it. Her intentions are fantastic. Her heart and business mind is totally in the right spot. Yet her team experiences her as a weak leader; chaotic, not present, rash, emotional, and inconsistent in her decision making (which creates more work for everyone on the back end). Why? She’s brilliant. Truly. She’s one of the smartest people you’ll ever meet. She even has the MBA from a hotshot school, and a business history that makes all the other leaders jealous. So why does her team experience her as a weak leader? They like her. They’re happy to work for/with her. But they don’t totally trust her. They can’t fully count on her direction. And in some cases, they even feel bad for her. (Ouch.) How does someone so amazing, have such incongruent impact?

Here’s how… It’s simple actually and all centers around what’s happening for “Julie” inside. At its most basic level, she is not creating the space to take care of herself. Physically, she eats on the run and the food is sub-par (which does not support her physical energy or brain chemistry to create presence and best thinking). Mentally, she’s always on the go with her mind four steps ahead or four steps behind. There’s no time to just sit, reflect, and make thoughtful aligned decisions that will serve the company and the team… everything is a “fire”. Emotionally, she’s hard on herself. She feels the pressure, she gets that her impact is not always what she’d like. The resulting self-talk does nothing to nurture her or her spirit. Spiritually,because she moves so fast and doesn’t create intentional space for herself, she’s not connected to self in a way that creates a strong presence that can be felt to the people around her. Additionally, this lack of internal space and connection leaves her less in touch with how she really feels about things, and less in touch with her intuition, hence the rash and inconsistent decision making. Ripple, ripple, ripple…

All of these things together impact the way her team experiences her, and result in the behaviors she defaults to, creating a lack of trust and respect.

Bottom line: Her level of self-care is not lined up with what a brilliant woman leading a multimillion dollar venture needs to be. (The pressure of this, by the way, just adds to the chaos.)

All of this could be remedied with a bit of intentional self-care. A bit of intentional space to “get in front of things”. A bit of space to breathe. And none of it would take a lot of time. Truly.

Do you recognize “Julie”? On your team, in your organization, in yourself?*


Yes, the way we care for ourselves, and set ourselves up for success from the inside out, has a direct impact on how we support and influence and lead others.

Put in other ways, let’s try three, follow the yellow brick road and see which one resonates most for you, then plug in:

  • How you care for yourself impacts how you feel inside which impacts how clear you can be with your own truth and what’s important, which impacts how authentically you will show up, which impacts how others will experience you, which impacts their level of trust in you and the amount of credibility you will create with them, which impacts your ability to influence others.
  • Your self-care directly impacts your energy inside. Which impacts your energy and presence outside. Which impacts your ability to lead.
  • The better we feel. The clearer we are. The more ownership we take for the things we CAN control (ie. how we take care of ourselves and set ourselves up for success). The more space we have within ourselves. And the stronger, clearer, and more generous we can be for others. The better our leadership impact.

I suspect that intuitively you know in someway this is true for you. The path may not be pegged perfectly, but you know that taking care of yourself is key. We all know this. You don’t need me to tell you. (After all, I’m sure you’re still eating your broccoli every night per mom, right?) But then why does it get overlooked so often?

Julie’s reason came down to time, not knowing what she didn’t know, and simply not realizing how important this was for her. The minute she started to address this, she shifted. Shortly after, her team noticed a difference. (Note: funny tidbit, one of the most powerful and simple things she did for herself to “get in front of it” with self-care was to clean her closet. No that is not a typo. She cleaned her closet.)

Pick your reason: You take it for granted, the pain of not doing it is not strong enough, you don’t have time, it’s not compelling enough, you just don’t want to, or you just don’t know. All reasons I hear daily. Instead of refuting the most common excuses, I’ll offer you this: You don’t know how good “good” feels until you’re in it. And how good you feel creates an automatic ripple effect on how good you make others feel and how good you lead. It’s actually very simple. (So simple, we forget.)


Imagine setting yourself up for success, so thoroughly – physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, that your body feels strong and alive, your mind clear and productive, your emotions true and steady and life-giving, and your spirit connected to meaning and what lights you up… imagine setting yourself up for success, so thoroughly, that leadership becomes easy, clear, powerful… and there is no struggle. This is what’s possible when we take care of ourselves.

Yes, you need the tools and the competencies and the cause to lead for… Of course! We’ll get you that. No problem. (That’s the easy stuff.) AND, I assure you, all of these come easier when your personal foundation (inside and out) is clean, clear and steady. (That’s actually the harder stuff.)

What do you notice? What’s true for you? How do you see your self-care and connection to self showing up in your leadership impact? I’d love to hear.

*As always, names and deets of my stories are shifted a bit to protect identity. All people and situations I write about are composites of real people, real teams, real companies, real problems, real wins. All are true. I write from true experience, but rest assured names and any identifying details are always changed. If you read this and think it’s “you” – it’s not… or maybe it is icon smile The most obvious, yet crucial, thing overlooked in leadership . If you can relate, that means there’s good good juice in this for you. Thanks as always to my clients, students, and readers for sharing your stories so they can support others in learning and leadership. I love you dearly. xx

About the Author

Anese Cavanaugh is a mom, entrepreneur, blogger, speaker, and all-around leadership and collaboration expert. She’s considered a trusted advisor, teacher, and thinking partner to some of today’s most savvy business leaders and organizations like IDEO, Chevron, IBM, Cooper, Doorsteps, Citicorp, and others. Anese has been called a “game changer”, a “miracle worker”, and even “wonder woman” by clients.

A noted writer and speaker, Anese has been seen in Shape Magazine, Prevention Magazine, the Miami Herald, Western Suburban, and TNG and on stages across the country. She has received numerous awards for writing and impact, including an award for Professional Woman of the Year for Coaching & Mentoring by the NAPW. Her methodology has been integrated into core curriculum and processes in various leadership institutes and training programs including Youth Guidance Organization, Zingerman’s Community of Business, and the ISAE Leadership Institute where she served as faculty for their executive leadership program.

Anese is currently finishing up two book projects, is the author of The Little Book of Bootism, and was published in the book Stepping Stones to Success (V6) alongside thought leaders Deepak Chopra, Jack Canfield, and others. She swears by self-care, purpose, and impact and currently splits her time between San Francisco, New York City, and Sacramento. You can tweet her at @anesecavanaugh.

About the author, Kelly

Kelly Galea is a creative, multi-passionate entrepreneur and luminary blessed with a unique combination of wit, grit, intellect and intuition. She helps you navigate the work-life maze of ever-shifting priorities and transform your life through holistic self-discovery techniques and immersive, fun and magical mini-quests. Working with Kelly will inspire you to unveil, express and celebrate your vital personality and lifestyle preferences to create a more harmonious life.

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