It sounds daunting and unrealistic: Great leaders never take a day off!
Never taking a day off means burnout, right?
It means not keeping things in perspective and not making time for what is important in life, right? It means lying on your deathbed with regrets because you never took a day off, right?
If you have these types of reactions to the concept that great leaders never take a day off, then we must re-frame what leadership means.
If You Consider Yourself a Great Leader or Aspire to be One, When Exactly Are You Supposed to NOT be a Great Leader?
Great leaders lead…all the time.
Great leadership means a lot of things. But most of all it means setting an example and establishing a culture around your behaviors that everyone can, and should, follow.
If you are having a bad day at work, should you allow yourself to act on your negative feelings to the detriment of your team in the name of taking a day off?
No, of course not. How you handle those negative feelings is another matter and will vary from person to person and situation to situation. However, simply acting on them because that is the easy way does not set the right example and certainly does not establish a desirable culture.
If you are a parent and are tired at the end of the day, do you allow yourself to show poor dinner table manners or avoid make conversation with your children…because you are tired? Does this set a good example and establish an enviable culture?
Do you take your spouse or significant other for granted, and present less than your best self to them because they should just know you still love them, despite how you are behaving?
Even taking time for yourself exhibits great leadership, as long as it comes with a conscious and sensitive explanation to those you are asking to support your personal time. Or, should you just declare your need for time to yourself and storm off?
When Exactly Is It OK To Be Something Less Than a Great Leader?
If you look at it from the lens of the example you want to set and the culture you want to establish both personally and professionally, then the answer is never.
This does not mean you will always get it right. You will not always get it right. But leaders know that, give themselves grace, and make the proper adjustments, whether that be an apology or a reset of your established behaviors.
Either way, it is still leading.
Try it out for a week or so. Ask yourself throughout the day if you, the leader, is taking a day off. Do this and you will automatically make the leadership adjustments you need in every aspect of your life.
It is not easy to do. This is why leadership is such a premium.
Great leaders never take a day off!
Welcome to leadership!
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Errol Doebler is the founder of Leader 193, a leadership consulting firm. After successful careers as a Navy SEAL Platoon Commander and FBI Special Agent, Errol founded Leader 193 to realize his passion of empowering great leaders and better human beings. Leader 193 provides executive coaching, keynote speaking, and corporate retreats to individuals and teams across the world.
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