Skip to content


This article was originally published on 16 April 2020 as part of our Leading through Covid-19 series.

At a time when the health and care system faces huge challenges, it’s completely understandable and normal to feel unsettled and overwhelmed. But whatever your leadership role, fear, anxiety, panic and fatigue will disrupt your ability to focus on the right priorities, manage your relationships effectively, and make informed choices.

The practice of restorative self care among leaders is hugely important for sustaining energy and building resilience. When leaders can make time for self care, they also model it as a legitimate and important priority for others around them.

There is a leadership framework that can be useful here. Put simply it offers a way to think about how you manage your physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual energies. Leaders often assume effective time management is what underpins high performance, leading to a preoccupation with tasks and ‘doing’ that can and often does lead to burnout. But it is the effective management and intentional use of your energy that really matters because – unlike time – energy is renewable if you invest in it (Loehr and Schwartz 2003)1 .

This idea may seem especially important for leaders who responded to the Covid-19 pandemic, which may well have felt huge and energy-sapping. Using the simple framework below, try to reflect honestly on what you do, don’t do, and could do to routinely renew and manage your energy.

Physical energy

Good nutrition, exercise, sleep, and rest are the foundation of physical energy, but they are also vital for managing emotions and focusing attention. Is your body getting what it needs to properly restore itself each day?

Intellectual energy

This is about the mental ability for sustained concentration and attention; for data, for memory, and for speed, flexibility and creativity of thought. What do you do to relax that gives your mind the time and opportunity to recover throughout the day?

Emotional energy

Emotional energy is central to how effectively you understand and regulate your emotions, as well as how you connect with others. What coping mechanisms do you use to process your emotions and develop your self-awareness? Who or what in your life helps you experience positive emotions?

Spiritual energy

We all have and feel a connection to something bigger than ourselves. What that is will be deeply personal but could include things like values, connection to culture and community, the natural world, and/or to faith and our beliefs. Spiritual energy is ultimately about motivation; it ensures congruence between who we are and what we do (authenticity). What really matters to you?