I want to talk to you about the care and feeding of a leader. By this, of course, I mean you.
Leadership is always a taxing role but in the last year or two it has been particularly draining. I don’t want to rehearse our woes. I do want to stir you to accept that your primary tool, weapon, and resource is you. If you don’t know how to take care of yourself—to rest, to reset, to inspire, to re-create yourself—you will diminish as a leader. Let’s talk about some tactics.
Get Radical. I’m putting this first for a reason. Your routine, your carefully managed world, can be death to your best leadership. I’ll tell you frankly, a leader has to push the limits a bit. Do things on the edge, things that press you against your usual boundaries. Golf is fine but what about getting in shape to hike a 10,000-foot mountain in your area? Also, it is sometimes just a single experience that resets the bar in our souls. Jump out of an airplane—tandem jump, please! Go to a range and shoot a gun if this isn’t your usual hobby. Ride a horse. Do anything that is other, exciting, breathless and a little on the edge for you. Para-sailing did me good.
Install Change. Winston Churchill said, “A change is as good as a rest.” He was right. In your leadership, you burn the same tracks in your brain. You work the same ruts in your soul. You even move in exactly the same ways. When Churchill discovered this, he started painting. Read his Painting as a Pastime to learn more of this story. You know what I’m doing just to stress new systems in my brain and my soul? I’m taking guitar lessons—from James Taylor! Online! I have a little skill on guitar, but mastering James’ riffs is working new parts of me. See, it’s the change that is the key. Find yours.
Find the Poetry. Remember what I’ve often told you. Our leadership roles deaden us. They make us dull. The routine and the constant demands kill. You have to renew the poetry in your soul, the vision and attachment to the beauty of what you do. I read. I have deep talks with other leaders. I’m also a language hound. I look for beautiful, poetic language. I allow it to cycle in my soul. Recently, it was the lyrics of Billy Joel that did me in. Yet feeding this connection to the human experience in turn feeds my passion to lead and to build leaders. What embeds the poetry of your calling in you? Find it. Grow it. Retain it. Rehearse it. Find new sources for it. Essential!
Let me go rapid-fire now to save time. Get new, stimulating people in your life. Pursue renewing physical experiences. Workout to exhaustion. Fast. Swim in icy water—if you are healthy enough. You get the idea. Read whatever stirs your soul—but just not the hottest new leadership book all the time. It will sound trite, but take up a hobby that is far different from your daily routine. I once built furniture for a season. I also wrote songs. The point is to immerse yourself in the “other.” When travel opens back up, go to places completely foreign to you—even in your region. The goal is to get out of yourself regularly.
Here it is in short: You, as you always are, can become the enemy of you at your best. So don’t be the usual all the time. Get out of yourself—often. You are smart. You can envision all that is being said here and much that isn’t. Just get on it. Now’s the time.