Invest in yourself, & other lessons on leadership from Alexis Ohanian

Mathilde Collin
3 min readDec 20, 2019
Source: Front

I launched Front because I wanted more people to be happier at work. I obsess over it at Front and have shared some thoughts on how to achieve this. However, there’s just so much I know! It’s my first company after all 😊 So a few months ago I decided to interview people who also obsess over it.

Today, I’m thrilled to announce the launch of a series of interviews. The first one is with Alexis Ohanian, and here is what I learned from the conversation.

Don’t wait until something terrible happens to prioritize mental health.

Both Alexis and I had earth-shattering moments while leading our companies when we realized we needed to slow down. For Alexis, it was when his mother got sick. And for me, it was when my co-founder Laurent was diagnosed with cancer.

During that time, we had to change a lot in order to get by. We started doing meditation, eating differently, working less, going to therapy, getting regular exercise — taking care of ourselves in ways we should have been all along. What came from these changes? We were both happier — personally and professionally. We felt more present and in a better headspace.

Looking back, we both wish we didn’t have to have such bad experiences to prioritize our health. Especially as a leader, you have to start thinking about your health now, even if you’re feeling great. You’ll be happier when hard times come along.

“I have to draw hard lines around important things in my life that nourish me personally in order to do the exceptional things in my work life.” — Alexis Ohanian

Technology is a gift. Use tech as tools, not a curse.

Right now we are surrounded by technology, which is great but can be overwhelming. We need discipline to prevent it from being too invasive and distracting. Some ideas to achieve this:

  • Remove notifications from your phone: I challenged Alexis and some others to turn off notifications on their phones many months ago, and he’s stuck to it!
  • Delete apps from your phone: I remove all social media and work apps from my phone so I can’t be glued to it while I’m out and about.
  • Leave your phone somewhere when you have dinner with your family: Make sure that when you schedule time with loved ones, you also make the effort to be present in those moments.

“We have this technology that we can shut off and say, ‘No, no, no, you are a tool. You don’t run my life.’” — Alexis Ohanian

Show your team the ROI of finding balance.

When you take time to recharge and rest, you can deliver better when you are at work. Companies that optimize to allow employees to do this have better outcomes. There’s less employee burnout. Lower attrition. Higher engagement.

You have to not only make policies that allow your team to take the time they need to recharge (like establishing a minimum number of days employees must take off per year), but you also have to be a role model by taking that time for yourself.

“Founders should be optimizing selfishly for their businesses by investing in themselves, and taking time for themselves.” — Alexis Ohanian

I’ll be doing more of these videos so let me know what you think 😁 If you’re interested, you can watch the full video with Alexis, and my conversations with Dr. Gabriella Kellerman and Justin Kan.