Can you recite the Flight Attendant’s safety speech? I bet you can. You know, the one that goes something like, “…In the event of a loss of cabin pressure, an oxygen mask will drop from above. If you are traveling with a child, place your mask on first…”

I found this version of the speech made by a flight attendant who was trying to break the boredom and gain the attention of the passengers…

“In the event of a loss of cabin pressure these baggy things will drop down over your head. You stick it over your nose and mouth like the flight attendant is doing now. The bag won’t inflate, but there’s oxygen there, promise. If you are sitting next to a small child, or someone who is acting like a small child, please do us all a favor and put on your mask first. If you are traveling with two or more children, please take a moment now to decide which one is your favorite. Help that one first, and then work your way down.”

As a parent, it always seems counter instinctual to put your own mask on first (not to mention picking your favorite child!). Upon further reflection, I think there is a broader lesson in this speech for any leader – whether you lead a team at work, in the community or at home. It’s simple: Take care of yourself first, so you can better serve others. Simple, yes, but again, counter instinctual for the servant leader who puts others’ needs before his/her own.

You are less helpful to those you serve without your own “oxygen mask” – whether your oxygen mask is physical health (rest, diet and exercise), emotional balance, intellectual stimulation, spiritual strength or financial fortitude. If you are running low on oxygen or anything else you need to perform at your peak, you cannot be serving your team optimally.

So, next time your feel like you need a breather, take a lesson from your friendly flight attendant, and put your oxygen mask on first. Those you serve will appreciate you being at your best!