Overview: To be at their best, leaders must be mentally healthy, motivated, optimistic, and energetic. Good nutrition ensures optimal gut health, influencing the brain through the gut-brain axis. Leadership coaching cannot ignore nutrition, as it’s an important component of optimal physical and mental health and leadership.
“Your diet is a bank account. Good food choices are good investments.” – Bethenny Frankel.
“You are what you eat” is a phrase we’ve all heard. What you eat determines your health, body image, mood, and energy. It’s clear what you eat also determines your productivity as a worker and leader. Eating better can make you a more effective leader.
In the context of leadership, we seldom link diet quality to leadership. With so many other things to consider, some leaders make the mistake of regarding food as fuel that powers them through the day. When we generalize in such terms, we tend to go for the options we perceive as the most efficient. We aim to take on sufficient nutrients as quickly as possible and move on to more important things.
This is how bad leadership diets come into existence. Gulping down a burger is an attractive option for those too busy to pay real attention to what they eat. A proper diet requires attention, and we often don’t grant it that attention, thus sabotaging our leadership efforts over the long term.
Leadership Coaching and Your Diet
Leadership coaching is the science of developing leadership abilities, defeating gaps, and identifying strengths. Executive coaching specialists aim to turn leaders into better versions of themselves. They cannot overlook the impact of diet on leaders’ productivity, engagement, and motivation.
Coaches know awareness is not the problem. We all know and understand a mixture of ground-up leftovers is a poor diet choice, but we choose to indulge in the momentary satisfaction and satiety such meals offer because we perceive them as efficient.
Executive coaching is about getting leaders to adopt certain behaviors and making them routine. Good nutrition is such a habit. Coaches may advise leaders to:
- Make decisions about eating well ahead of time.
- Have smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day to avoid the dreaded glucose drop.
- Make healthy snacks more available than unhealthy snacks.
When you have healthy food in your fridge, you will find it easier to eat well.
How Nutrition Impacts Leadership
Nutrition can impact your body, well-being, and energy in many ways. By extension, it also influences your mental alertness, capabilities, and leadership.
Mood and Energy
Optimism is one of the hallmarks of an intelligent, mature leader. One can only be excited about the future and embrace it if one is optimistic.
Good nutrition can stave off depression and keep up energy levels to power leaders through work weeks. By eating leafy green vegetables, whole grains, and unrefined carbohydrates, leaders can stock up on energy, avoiding the dreaded and costly midday crash.
Simple, refined sugars give people quick energy boosts, but they can cause crashes shortly after.
The Gut-Brain Axis
Doctors know about an intriguing link between the gut and the brain. The existence of the gut-brain axis means our gut health directly impacts the emotional and cognitive centers of the brain. When the gut is healthy, we’re in a better mood and find it easy to focus.
The gut-brain axis is bidirectional. Emotional problems and stress can wreak havoc on the gut’s microbe flora.
Good Nutrition and Time Management
Healthy eating involves strict scheduling. When leaders schedule their days around meals, they lend strict structures to them. Scheduling is the key to time management.
Leaders who schedule time for breakfast in the morning allow themselves to wake up properly and set the tone for the day. Those who sleep in and rush out the door with slices of leftover pizza in hand are in for more chaotic days at the office.
Good nutrition helps leaders build and maintain more leaderlike images and reputations. People whose images betray a lack of self-management skills cannot expect others to perceive them as solid managers of organizational affairs.