Take a bReak

Can Leadership Take A Break?

Written by: Al Rodway 

My answer is a definite No!

My definition of leadership is to positively influence other peoples’ behaviours, intentionally or accidentally.  (Leadership can occur accidentally through unconscious behaviours of someone that impact others).  

I have known and witnessed some incredible leaders throughout my life, and have the absolute pleasure of seeing emerging leaders right now.  So I think the question whether leadership can take a break, take a holiday, is an important one.  

Whenever I observe people  who sometimes or often lead others, drop off their leadership platform I like to ask them why that has happened.  Below are the typical responses I have received:

  1. Too busy
  2. I can’t lead all the time
  3. It is draining to constantly try to impact other people
  4. Starting another role/job or changing teams.
  5. Gave up because it didn’t seem to be working
  6. I’m not ok myself

All of these are just poor excuses for not removing one’s self from leadership attempts, except one.  If someone is not ok themselves, that is the one reason I believe is genuine … self management is paramount to sound leadership.  The others are excuses which begs the question why they are put forward so often for leadership going on holidays for awhile?  The answer is twofold.  First, the person putting up the excuse just doesn’t get what leadership really is … leadership behaviours must find their source in a genuine desire to help other people, so how can that be allowed to take a holiday?  Second, a real leaders just can’t help themselves spotting opportunities to improve … something, a person, a situation.  They will burst forth and try to make a difference. 

Let’s deal with each of the excuses above. 

  1. How can a leader be too busy to impact other people, etc?  The fact that someone is very busy surely presents more opportunities to do so than when not busy!   Second, showing leadership is not always time consuming; it can be a quiet word to someone, a look on your face, a genuine word of encouragement, etc.  It does not always demand a lot of time.
  2. How could anyone who is a leader or wants to be a leader think that they can’t lead all of the time?  A true (emerging) leaders will want to impact others all of the time, no matter what.  In fact, picking and choosing when to do so will absolutely make it more difficult to get better and bette at leadership, as well as walk straight over the top of leadership opportunities when on a break.
  3. How can it possibly be draining to positively impact other people?  There is nothing more envigorating than to see the differences we can make (to peoples’ lives).  If showing leadership is draining, the person is going about it in questionable ways.  Helping to improve someone, a situation, making a difference, is energizing.
  4. When starting a new job, joining a new team, etc. is one of the best opportunities to create positive change, because we have fresh eyes on everything.  Thinking there needs to be a settle-in period is a nonsense .. you might as well walk around with ‘I am an apprentice’ sign on our backs.  Fresh eyes, new situations, new people, all present wonderful opportunities to create improvement by what we say and do.
  5. Leadership attempts will not always work, of course they won’t.  That will be because our leadership attempts are not as skillful as we could make them … so adapt them and try again … or because the person/people we are trying to impact are less than accepting of our attempts … so persist.  Resistance requires persistence.

Leadership is one of life’s most golden opportunities.  Whether you see it as improving situations, processes, peoples’ lives, or whatever.  The best way to deal with change is to create it yourself so there is an also acceptable selfish element in leadership behaviours as well.  The more someone is inclined to give their own leadership a break the more they will lose sight of the very essence of what leadership is, the slower they will improve themselves as leaders and the less situations they will impact.  Why choose any of those for the sake of what I think are just feeble and unjustifiable excuses.

We always revert back to our Why … what is our fundamental purpose?  Mine is to positively impact the lives of others.  How could I think it’s ok to put that on hold … for any reason?  It drives me!  To inspire people to do what they otherwise wouldn’t or stop what they otherwise would. I never want to give those attempts a break.  Anyone who sees leadership as needing a break just does not get what true leadership is and should revisit their Why.

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