Some industries and professions are under particular strain these days. That’s certainly the case for healthcare professionals during these times of financial constraint, aging populations, and really scary pandemic scenarios.

I was the opening keynote speaker for the Saskatchewan Registered Nurses Association at one of their annual conferences. Their conference theme was, “Discover the Leader Within.” I took “speaker license” with their theme and modified my slide to read “Nursing the Leader Within.”

I introduced this theme with the analogy of how parents of young children on airplanes are advised that if the oxygen masks were ever to “drop from the panel above,” put the mask on yourself first and then assist your child. This is counterintuitive to our parental instincts. But, of course, if we don’t take care of ourselves first, we may not be around to help anyone else (I wrote about using this metaphor in another setting in the May Leader Letter).

The response to the notion of “oxygenating yourself first” to set up my overview of the timeless principles of personal leadership (drawn mostly from Growing the Distance) resonated very strongly with the 300 participants (the organizer sent me a very enthusiastic letter – that oxygenated me through the busyness of my travel schedule). Taking care of ourselves first so we can more energetically lead others is common sense. But it’s not always common practice – especially among caregivers, parents, and other helping professions. Do you regularly practice reflection and renewal? Are you getting enough self-leadership oxygen? If not, help others by taking care of yourself.