One of the most fiendish traps of leadership is the trap that is set by daily, overwhelming tasks that must be done. Our greatest contribution to our organization and team is not in the accomplishment of those daily tasks, however important they are, but in getting away from them regularly enough to look around, breathe, think, and find the solutions that cannot be found on the playing field of daily duty.
In short, we must get “up and out,” but we are forever being pulled “down and in.”
I don’t know a great leader who doesn’t regularly step aside, disappear, take a “planning day,” retreat, pray, meditate, step back or walk away. They must come back, of course – we can’t walk away and stay away – but we must walk away quite regularly if we want to be of true service.
Here are some ways to do it.
- Think through your day! Get up in time to spend 30 minutes thinking through the day that you are about to jump aboard. What matters most today? Where are you most needed? What is priority number one, two and three? Make notes!
- Review your notes at bedtime! Note the key accomplishments. Note the misses. Give thanks!
- Observe the Sabbath! I mean this. Don’t work seven straight days! It’s not just one of the Ten Commandments, it’s the wordiest of the Ten, emphasized far more than “don’t murder” and “don’t commit adultery.” God rests, and He’s God. Jesus rested. But we think that we don’t need to?
- Circle up with a group of safe peers! Talk things over. Listen. Share ideas. If you listen to this 4-minute video of some of my executive clients, you will note how many of them talk about the transformational impact of (confidentially) talking with others about their leadership!
- Read books! The late, great Charlie “Tremendous” Jones drove home the point that the two most impactful decisions a leader makes are the people they associate with (point 4, just above), and the books they read. Leaders are readers!
- Schedule “Free Days!” Dan Sullivan urges his entrepreneurial clients in Strategic Coach to set aside days for renewal. This is a borrowed idea, as Jesus practiced it again and again, getting “by himself” (or, as the old English puts it, going “apart”). Walk, play, think, pray, doodle, muse, dawdle, nap, wander and wonder. Go fallow. Sail a boat. Bake bread. Trim rose bushes. Sit in the sun.
- Regularly (annually, quarterly, you pick the pace) ask, “What must I stop doing?” If it needs to be done, equip someone else to do it. If it doesn’t need to be done, quit it! The Dead Sea isn’t dead because new water never arrives; it’s dead because nothing ever leaves.
Share your stories of “breaking out.” How do you get up and out? What is your discipline for recharging? Let’s give each other some help!