In K. Anders Ericsson’s famous study of violinists, popularized by Malcolm Gladwell as “the 10,000-Hour Rule,” Anders found that the best violinists spent more time practicing than the merely good students. But that wasn’t it.
The second most important factor differentiating the best violinists from the good violinists was actually sleep! As Greg McKeown outlines in Essentialism, the best violinists slept an average of 8.6 hours in every twenty-four-hour period, which is about an hour longer than the average American. Over the period of a week they also spent an average of 2.8 hours of napping in the afternoon, which is about two hours longer than the average.
The authors of the study concluded that sleep allowed these top performers to regenerate so they could practise with greater concentration. Sure, they practiced more, but they got more out of these hours of practise because they were better rested.
Just like the authors of the study, many business leaders have just started to recognize the power of sleep. Arianna Huffington, for one, has no problem taking a nap in the middle of the workday. Jeff Bizos has been quoted saying he’s more alert and thinks more clearly on 7-8 hours of sleep a night.
If you’re a leader still thinking you can make it through the day sleep-deprived, it’s time to reconsider where your patterns lay among these 21 highly successful leaders throughout history.