Why self leadership is the start of creating great culture

by | Jun 21, 2023

In April 2023 I gave a keynote presentation at The Residential and Home Care Show about Leadership Strategies To Create Great Culture. The talk focused on the two areas that need consideration before a leader can really start to shift company culture. They are Leading Yourself and Leading Others.


Why leading yourself matters

Self leadership is often overlooked in the hustle and bustle of work life. But in many sectors, including social care, many managers are promoted because of the quality of their work and yet receive no formal leadership training.

Not everyone is a natural leader. But in our effort to lead others we can forget that first and foremost we must lead ourselves effectively.

When we were involved in the largest study of Outstanding rated managers, some key differentiators were highlighted in their Judgement Index results including….

They all had good personal wellbeing.

But what does ‘good wellbeing’ even mean? And how does that help you at work?

I came up with a quick exercise that helps you to understand your own wellbeing and whether it’s helping or hindering your work performance. If you’ve got 5 minutes, why not try it for yourself?


How to measure your own wellbeing

All you need for this exercise is a pen and paper.

Start by drawing two stacked rectangles and you’re going to take a moment to think about how to fill the

The top rectangle will represent work. You’re going to use your pen to scribble within the rectangle and fill it enough to represent the energy that you put into work, as well as anything else externally – Think childcare, looking after family members etc.

The bottom rectangle will represent your self. You’re going to scribble within the rectangle and fill it enough to represent the energy that you give back to yourself. That can include time for your own interests, hobbies and anything outside of work that fulfils you.

*Just to be clear – you’re not writing anything. You’re just going to abstractly scribble. Imagine these rectangles are containers that you’re filling with liquid to represent the energy distribution.

Once you’ve finished, hold the piece of paper away from you and take a look. What does the shape look like?


The ‘wedding cake’ theory

Ideally, the shape will look something like a wedding cake. You would have a slightly wider bottom rectangle or ‘bottom tier’ that will support the top tier.

Why? Well, if we put it in plain cake terms, we want the bottom tier to be a wide enough foundation to support the top tier. If they were the other way around, the cake could tip over or collapse.

Most people have an inverted wedding cake shape. That is, they give more energy to work and others than they do to themselves. And that results in a wobbly foundation and poorer overall wellbeing.


What to do about your wedding cake

I hope this short exercise helps you to understand how important the bottom tier of the wedding cake is. When we give energy back to ourselves, we have a stronger foundation and are able to support the top tier (our family, colleagues, work) much better.

This is self leadership. Knowing when you need to bolster that ‘self tier’ so that you can show up as a better leader.

I’d really recommend taking some time to think about what you could do to to fill up that bottom tier. It might involved setting better work/life boundaries or finding old hobbies that you used to love to provide some spark and fulfilment.


Leading yourself helps you to lead your team

When I work with leadership teams (including managers and team leaders) and I have them do this exercise, I’ll always ask them what they think their team looks like. An entire team with wobbly foundations will not be performing at their best and it will likely show in the quality of their work, CQC results and general culture.

The message? Start with yourself and you can then lead others more effectively.


Want to know the next leadership strategy? You can watch the full presentation below.

About the Author

Sophie Coulthard

Sophie primarily looks after the care company clients and previously hosted a popular care focused podcast called The Road To Outstanding. Sophie has a keen interest in Axiology; the science behind The Judgement Index, and joined the board of The Hartman Institute in 2020 to support its efforts to make Axiology better known in business and the world. Sophie is based in London and enjoys exploring the city with her dog and discovering new brunch venues.

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