Mason Institute for Leadership Excellence
Center for the Advancement of Well-Being | The College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Ask the Director: Why Should Leaders Learn and Use Well-being Practices?


In this regular feature, Mason Institute for Leadership Excellence (MILE) Director Penny Potter (Ph.D., PCC) answers questions that people are exploring in their leadership and well-being journeys.

MILE’s focus on well-being distinguishes its leadership training from the training at other leadership centers. Why is it important for leaders to learn and use well-being practices?

In dynamic systems theory there is something called the capability trap. The idea is that in any system – either organizational or human – in which resources are continually depleted without being replenished eventually results in a system collapse. That is where we are headed in the way we approach our lives today.

Work today has become all-consuming. It seeps into every aspect of our lives. Almost every one of my coaching clients during the past 10 years has listed ‘work-life balance’ as one of their coaching goals. I often ask ‘How many back-to-back marathons can a person run without resting, eating, and sleeping in-between?’ and then ask, ‘How many marathons are you running back-to-back in your work?’

Somehow we don’t see that we need to apply the same minimum basics in our own lives as athletes do. Tending to one’s own well-being means regularly monitoring the main areas in Mason’s resilience model and having the practices built into our muscle memory to maintain relative balance among them.

What we teach in all our MILE programs is the same simple idea that airlines illustrate: put your own mask on first. That is easier said than done in our organizational cultures today. In all MILE programs we provide opportunities to build in well-being practices that will help leaders remain centered and mindful. Those practices also help us get back on center during the times we lose our balance.”

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