Recharge, Reinvent, or Resign – Part One
Leaders in every generation have faced challenges. In the early days of the Jesus movement, church leaders were thrown to the lions (literally!) by Roman emperors. In modern times, leaders have navigated civil wars, civil rights, and economic depressions and recessions. Those are the large, public challenges. Then there’s the personal ones: depression, discouragement, stress, critics, and fatigue. As I survey the leadership landscape at the end of 2021, I believe it is the most challenging extended season of my 30+ years of leading organizations.
Starting with this post, I want to address three ways a leader can approach this season of life and leadership. Each of them are equally valid, depending on your situation and the needs of your organization. If we lead long enough, we will likely experience all three.
Recharge Your Leadership
Here comes what I know will be an understatement: Leadership is hard. It’s hard when the waters are relatively calm; how much more so when it feels like we’re paddling in the midst of a hurricane. For many of us, we’ve been in a hurricane since the spring of 2021. Granted, the winds occasionally slow down and provide moments to catch our breath. But, like a real hurricane, the collateral damage lasts long after the immediate storm has left.
When the battery on your smartphone dies, your smartphone dies, too. Unlike a battery-powered device, it’s possible for leaders to run on empty for extended periods of time. There are times when we must dig in, hold on, and keep working. As I tell younger leaders, we don’t get the luxury of scheduling our crises — they just happen, and we have to respond.
While running on empty may be acceptable on occasion, it’s not a sustainable path forward. At some point, we will begin to experience diminishing returns. This is just common sense. Why is that? Because we’re not bringing the best of ourselves to the table. Decision-making will suffer because to make consistently good decisions takes effort — which requires sustained energy. A tired leader may be tempted to look for shortcuts, a temptation that has tanked many good leaders.
When a leader runs on empty as a way of life (which some do), the results can be catastrophic. Burnout may be overused and ill-defined at time, but it is a reality. But what is burnout? Perhaps the best way I can describe it is like this: an encroaching deadness. Burnout doesn’t happen as the result of a single event, but happens over time. Motivation dies, emotions disappear, and the path of least resistance looks like a winner in every circumstance.
These are the personal effects. Drained leaders effect those they lead as well — both as individuals and at the organizational level. As a task, objective, or mission becomes more weighty, the need for inspiration grows as well. Without recharged batteries, that well will be dry. Parts of the organization that previously worked well together may start to experience friction. Good employees might drift away. As a result, the mission of the organization suffers.
In leadership circles, we’ve known for a long time that it’s important for leaders to recharge their batteries. But how?
Regular. Every leader needs a weekly rhythm that allows them to recharge. Included among the ten commandments is one that involves sabbatical. Work six days, rest on the seventh. For most of us, our “work schedule” allows for two days off per week. Our ancient ancestors would be jealous! The wisdom is simple: we need regular time to rest. We need down-time that is both mental and physical. And we need large, continuous chunks of it each week.
We also need to build in times of refreshment throughout the week. I’m a big advocate in morning routines. Mine involves meditation, praying the historic prayers, reading scripture, and reading for fun. Don’t forget the coffee! Healthy habits keep the battery recharged too. Regular exercise, eating healthy, a good sleep routine — these are the basic building blocks of staying recharged.
Occasional. I almost labeled this as “quarterly” but changed my mind. There might be monthly things that will help you sustain good energy. For our staff, we allow them to take one day per month as a “sabbatical” day. It’s a work day where they do no work … not even mow the lawn. It’s purely to refresh and recharge. Some organizations have a day of service each month where everyone serves in the community together.
There are other occasional ways to recharge. One simple way is to take advantage of three-day weekends. But you have to be intentional about avoiding work-related items while away. Other examples would be seminars, conferences, and other learning opportunities that are outside of your physical work environment. I have found these occasions to be mentally inspiring in a way that reading a blog at work just isn’t.
Annual. While three-day weekends are nice, we need longer periods of time to disconnect and recharge. Based on my experience, I have found it takes me three to five days to begin disconnecting. After that, I can begin to rest and recharge. Depending on your company’s vacation policy, taking one or two consecutive weeks away is ideal. I’ve been blessed with a board that allows me to take one month each summer for a study break – part rest, part planning ahead (which is another way to stay recharged week-to-week).
I also believe we should have annual check-ups, a dedicated time for reviewing what worked and what didn’t, as well as for brainstorming and dreaming about the future. For me, these annual check-ups are best done at the end of the year and consist of one or two days away from the office.
There is no doubt that the challenges of 2021-2022 have been draining. For your own sake and for the health of your organization, take recharging the batteries seriously.
Experience and Background
- 25+ years of senior leadership experience
- masters in business administration (mba)
- presenter at the WFX National Conference
- former president, Church Planters of the Rockies
- helped start 2 for-profit tech companies
To get a better feel for my style and personality, you can watch past sermons on our YouTube channel.
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