I want to talk to you about the care and feeding of a leader. More directly, I want to talk about the unique leadership diet you need during these times.
That we are going through a bruising season is something I do not need to tell you. What I may need to remind you of is the toll it takes on you. The fear, the worry, the grief, the offense, and the sheer physical strain—even while you are simply sitting on your couch—all exact a great price. Medical doctors tell us that these forces drain us biologically and can even produce a destructive rewiring of our brains. They can leach nutrients from our bodies and damage us in untold ways.
Still, we know how to fight back against the more physical impact of these forces. We eat well, exercise, rest, and limit our exposure to the dark and the terrifying. We erect barriers, take haven in our faith, and draw from the best in each other.
What I am more concerned about here is how you sustain yourself as a leader. In times like these, the world around us hardens. People near us can be harsher, more wounding. We are looked to for answers we may not have at the time. We are tempted to succumb to habits, even addictions, that can destroy us. We have to fight back. The question becomes, “How can I feed myself spiritually and intellectually so that I emerge from this troubling time a better leader than I was at the start?”
Here are some suggestions.
First, cut the crap. In the same way a physical trainer will tell you to cut out the junk food, I want to tell you to cut out the time-wasting, soul-numbing stuff we are sometimes drawn to. If you’ve invested the eight hours it takes to digest Netflix’s popular but vacuous Tiger King, that’s a day of your life you’ll never get back and that could have been spent shaping you as a leader. It’s the same with most binge watching. So, take a look at what you are putting before your eyes and cut the crap.
Second, go back to your wells of inspiration. A few days ago, I watched Chariots of Fire again. I did so because the movie first inspired me at a time in my life when I felt the force of destiny churning within me but also felt sidelined by circumstances. The magnificent themes in the film reached me this past week just as they did in the 1980s when this now classic first came out. I’ve watched other films, read other books and poems, for the same reasons. Each of them lit my inner fires of leadership. How about you? What past wells of inspiration can you revisit?
Third, focus on the noble and instructive. I’m reading a book about Queen Elizabeth. I’ve just finished one about Theodore Roosevelt. I’m scanning again the Bible figures who stood with God in the face of disaster. All of it is feeding my soul, teaching me techniques, and making me better for the days ahead. And you? What is your version of this? In other words, what can you digest that will make you better?
Finally, build a community of the like-minded around the themes that are dear to you. I attended a stogie-fest recently in which my friends discussed the idea of destiny. On the phone, a friend and I discussed how the idea of our deaths and what we want to be when it happens makes us live in more elevated terms. Who can you pull close—even online—who will help to light your inner fires?
Here’s the lesson: Feed well, lead well. This is the maxim I hope you’ll live out in these next weeks. We will all get through this. The question is what kind of people we’ll be when we do.