4 min read

2015: Do This One Thing

Jan 30, 2015 6:30:00 AM

Today we’re sharing insight from guest blogger Ron Kitchens, Chief Executive Officer of the Southwest Michigan First Group of Companies. We hope you enjoy Ron’s wisdom and perspective.


We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are.
- Max De Pree

In 2015, leaders need to first and foremost do this one thing: take care of themselves.

Every day, I get to interact with great leaders on both personal and professional levels. I am privileged to know leaders at global companies, small businesses, and not-for-profits. Every leader I know seems to be deferring their own wellbeing for their commitment to their work. It sounds noble and if you’re a leader, you know it is easy to do, but if you want to truly maximize your leadership and be a “level 5 leader,” as Jim Collins would put it, you have to put yourself in a position to be mentally, physically, academically, financially, and culturally well.

In today’s world that is just not happening.

One way I work on this is by having a management coach. For some reason, that often makes people really uncomfortable. If I told you I spent thousands of dollars a year on a golf coach, most of you would think it was awesome and that I am really dedicated to the game. But, when I tell people I spend $1,000 a year on a leadership coach, they think there must be some kind of deficiency in my leadership. It’s not about that at all. In fact, it is about getting better and being proactive, not reactive. For me, my leadership coach is a lot about my own wellness, about holding myself accountable to the commitment I have made to myself, my family, and others and making sure I am in a position to lead well.

There are usually two main things a leader can do to derail their leadership: a moral failure that damages a leader’s integrity and reputation or a financial failure that damages the sustainability or profitability of the organization. But, there is also a third thing that often gets overlooked and that is failure to take care of themselves as leaders. We have seen repeatedly where a leader has a health crisis or a personal relationship crisis that shuts down an organization and it has nothing to do with a moral or financial issue. It’s time that this third reason gets addressed.

As a leader, I personally feel incredible responsibility for the people that work on our team and I understand that the decisions I make not only affect them and how they do their jobs, but it affects their personal lives as well. My decisions affect their ability to pay their mortgages or grow their families. That kind of responsibility can be a huge burden and cause real wellness issues. That burden isn’t necessarily going anywhere, so it is critical that we take care of ourselves the way we want our teams to take care of themselves.

What’s The Risk?

My wish for leaders in 2015 is that you use this year to build your own capacity. Don’t spend so much time leading others that you forget to take care of yourself. If you don’t prioritize your own wellness, I promise you will not be as effective as you could or should be. I believe you each know what that specific thing or things are for you.

I also encourage you to get a management coach, or invest in your leadership through great books and education. I encourage you to take care of your physical health and take a vacation from time to time. It is not selfish. As a leader, you have to take good care of yourself so that you can also take good care of those that are important to you: your families, the people you work with, and the people you serve every day.

Always Forward.

Question: What do you need to do in 2015 to better care for yourself? What is stopping you?


This content was written and shared by guest blogger, Ron Kitchens.

Ron_Kitchens_HeadshotRon Kitchens learned the power of a job at an early age and has endeavored to share this revelation in the best way that he knows how since — by creating jobs. With more than three decades of experience in economic development, Ron serves as chief executive officer of the Southwest Michigan First Group of Companies, an award-winning cluster of privately funded economic development advisors who act as the catalyst for economic growth in Southwest Michigan. 

Ron is also a nationally sought-after speaker and best-selling author whose works include Community Capitalism: Lessons from Kalamazoo and Beyond. Ron publishes a weekly leadership blog and bi-monthly podcast, Always Forward, which can be found at 
www.ronkitchens.com and on iTunes. Connect with Ron on Twitter @ronkitchens.

Topics: Executive

Written by Gibson

Gibson is a team of risk management and employee benefits professionals with a passion for helping leaders look beyond what others see and get to the proactive side of insurance. As an employee-owned company, Gibson is driven by close relationships with their clients, employees, and the communities they serve. The first Gibson office opened in 1933 in Northern Indiana, and as the company’s reach grew, so did their team. Today, Gibson serves clients across the country from offices in Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Utah.