Why Leaders Need to Understand Rhythm and Structure?

Understanding rhythms and structure in leadership!

Leaders who do not understand ‘Rhythms’ miss out on a valuable tool for building resilience. Resilience allows us to care for ourselves, our teams, and our clients too. 
What is rhythm and structure?

It could mean any or all of the following 

      • organizing self
      • routine
      • regularity
      • pattern
      • certainty
      • time structure
      • planning
      • discipline and alignment
      • comfort and balance
      • Sync

Why Structure? 
Structure is predictability
Structure is routine
Structure is rhythm

Predictability and routine is something that is so basic to human beings. Even the body and the mind need these. We achieve a sense of balance through this. If we look at the earliest time in our lives there were so many routines. There was a time to be fed, sleep, wake up etc. We are accustomed to it and it is a great comfort for us to have routines.

Replacing Structure with Rhythm

More than structure, rhythm seems an appealing idea. It feels less threatening. Rhythms are everywhere. It is the most central aspect of life itself. If you look at your breath, breathing in and breathing out is a rhythm. So are day and night and seasons in the world. Hence we can look at rhythm as the essence of human living. It allows us to understand why routine and structure give us that sense of balance. 

When the rhythm is not there it’s haphazardness around us.  We feel our imbalance and experience a lack of clarity.  Imagine a day when you have had no time for yourself. A day when you missed your exercise routine. Or a day when you have eaten at odd times or not slept well. 

Identifying our rhythm derailers is useful. On an everyday basis, it allows us to have a cue that we are going down the wrong path. We can course correct and take ourselves into a rhythm again. 

Rhythms are an integral building block for resilience. 

4 rhythms I wish to highlight for you:
  1. Are you satisfied with your rhythm of eating and drinking?

This is so basic.  Yet it’s interesting that we don’t always go towards thinking about it as rhythm. At best we think about it as a diet.   We can evaluate our rhythm for

        • Snacking
        • Water
        • Sugary drinks
        • Caffeine
        • Alcohol

The Derailers

  • you are too rushed?
  • you have no space
  • you don’t plan well enough
  • you don’t stock up well
  • your food needs are not getting enough attention

Example: When I reflect on my rhythm with water, I find it is really important to fill up my bottle and bring it to my desk. There are days when I’m rushed and I just land up at my desk, just before an appointment starts and that rhythm is lost. 

I also have a rhythm connected with caffeine.  For me, personally, it simply does not work when I drink tea or coffee after 4:00 pm. This is something that has become an important rhythm because if not, it derails my energy and my sleep.

2. Are you satisfied with your rhythm of exercise and movement?

Movement is different from exercise. Exercise daily has value and we know that as leaders. Movement is affected because of our sedentary jobs. Sitting too long is more recently written about as one of the biggest causes of disease. Especially in the years after the age of 40 higher levels of movement is recommended. 

Do you notice the rhythm in your

  • breathing
  • postures
  • moving in between tasks

The Derailers

  • lack of awareness of  breath 
  • Not watching one’s posture
  • Not checking the time during  the day and losing track of movement

Example: Many people now use standing desks and a lot of organizations have them too. It allows more movement. 

My rhythm for movement and exercise is a challenge.  So I find it very valuable to keep bringing myself back to this question of rhythm for exercise and a rhythm for movement in my day. Setting a specific undisturbed time for exercise has been helpful. So also small alarms for getting up and moving during the workday. 

3. Are you satisfied with your rhythm of sleep and waking?

It is important that there is a rhythm to when you sleep. Deep sleep is a wonderful rejuvenator. When we do not sleep well, we find that that takes us off balance. It’s not necessarily about early to bed early, to rise. Although a lot of people claim that to be extremely helpful. 

Is your sleep

  • Is it too much?
  • Is it too little?
  • Erratic
  • Disturbed

The Derailers 

  • Hooked to work 
  • Prolonged screen time
  • High-strain emotional conversations
  • Alcohol, caffeine, late meals

Example: I can no longer drink coffee post 4 p.m. It delays my sleep time.

So also heavy meals. I now eat at least 3 hours before sleep. This new way is recent. I had not needed to pay attention before. However, as my body changed so also my rhythms. Another derailer for me is ‘OTT temptation’. I now make time during the day for relaxation and pastime so I can unwind many hours before sleep putting my system into some ease. If I have to work late evenings I am attentive to not make it too often in a week. 

4. Leaders, Are you satisfied with your rhythms at work? 

Our work too needs rhythms. Consider these

  • Regular feedback
  • Check-in meeting with the team members.
  • Reflection and planning for career expansion
  • Fun and joy
  • Relationship building with peers and team
  • Networking

The Derailers 

  • Lack of awareness
  • Lack of attention
  • Not making space on our calendar

 Example:  I have a rhythm of thinking and planning almost every month and at the start and end of every year. As a solopreneur, this sets me up for success and clarity with my teams. Every group of people we are associated with including our clients need a rhythm of conversation as it keeps us connected and serves the others’ needs effectively. I pay attention to these rhymes on a quarterly basis.

What can support you now?
  • Consciously make a few rhythms for yourself.
  • Make an effort to support yourself in staying with it
  • Make it visible- write it out prominently
  • Get an accountability buddy
  • Calendar your work rhythms
  • Use technology tools

Rhythm and structures do keep changing according to age and stage in life. Life’s googlies and our current reality must be accounted for.  I believe a wise leader looks at changing rhythms as a part of self-care and building resilience. After all, resilience is built slowly and over a period of time. It is natural that sometimes we do drop the ball on this.   But do pick it up again without judging yourself. Do it with loving kindness to yourself. 

Self-mastery is a journey, not a destination and you can make rhythms an important place to help you pivot.

Do you wish to start with one particular rhythm this month?

Suggested reads:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *