The most important decision in your life

Erikjan Lantink
4 min readApr 5, 2024

When flight attendants give their pre-flight safety instructions, one thing they tell you is that, in the case of a drop in cabin pressure, be sure to place the oxygen mask over your own face first before assisting anyone else, even your own children.

This instruction strongly contradicts most parents’ instincts. Parents will take care of their children first in case of danger before taking care of themselves. It’s not the right decision when on an airplane. I don’t have to explain why this instruction is given.

Instead, I’d like to point out the analogy with leadership.

As a leader, you need to take care of yourself first. As Jack Welch has put it very well:

“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”

This is why my book (the one I’m currently writing) starts with a section on self. You can only be a successful leader if you invest in yourself first. You can’t grow people effectively when you have no clue how to grow yourself, and you can’t lead a team when you don’t know how to lead. You have to give yourself oxygen first.

Leaders are not born. Leaders are grown.



Erikjan Lantink

Business & Leadership coach. Interim Leader. Writer. Speaker. Former Retail Executive (general management; operations; HR)