Leadership is hard. While it seems in vogue to aspire to “lead,” not everyone fully understands the responsibility that comes along with leadership. Even the best leaders can find themselves defeated from time to time. I agree with leadership guru, Michael Hyatt, about the need for leaders to develop a discipline of rest, especially during difficult times.
Most people look at leaders and only see what happens in front of the room, on the platform, or during a public event. They don’t realize the tough questions, complex challenges, and sleepless nights that any leader experiences from time to time.
It’s been my experience that times of great challenge come in seasons.
I believe we are in one now as a culture. Police shootings, political campaigns, and people with agendas have created an electric climate that is too often ending in tragedy. We have some tough decisions to make as a culture about the value of human life, the value of law and order, and what future we wish to strive to create. But challenging times are when latent leaders are often activated within their spheres of influence.
The same is true in organizations. There will be challenging seasons where leadership teams disagree, board alignment seems off, and every day seems like a parade of new opportunities to face uncertainty. If you’re not careful, it can suck the life right out of you.
I’m lucky to be serving in a very good season of leadership. I believe I have the best leadership team I’ve ever had. I believe the Board is more supportive and affirming of our direction than they ever have been. And Southeastern continues to outperform expectations year over year.
But that’s not where I started.
Know that every victory in leadership is preceded by a time of challenge. And during that challenge is when God activates your divine design in ways you hadn’t dreamed of before. It’s during those times when you are pushed beyond what you think you can handle and grow in ways you never dreamed were possible.
The Goal is to stay in the game long enough to realize the benefit of seasons of challenge and leadership growth. But how?
- How do you not get sidelined when the challenges seem to overshadow the opportunities?
- How do you not get discouraged when you feel all alone?
- How do you not jump ship when you do the right things consistently but have yet to see the results?
The key is rest. You have to keep your body prepared, your mind fresh, and your energy high to maintain the strength and resolve necessary to push through the dip and get to the other side.
I recommend every leader do these five things regularly, but these are especially important during times of great challenge:
- Get eight hours of sleep every night. Whatever is keeping you up at night will be there in the morning.
- Eat a balanced diet. Midnight trips to McDonald’s may sound like fuel but will not give your body the nutrition it needs on a daily basis.
- Get into an exercise routine. I’m not suggesting you become a gym rat, but physical activity will relax your mind and build stamina.
- Read a book that has nothing to do with your profession. Lose yourself in a story for 30 minutes, and you’ll understand many successful leaders read daily.
- Pray. God uses everything and everyone to shape us into our divine design.
A leader must lead daily.
I know these suggestions may seem trite. But if you’re tired, stressed, and worn out, you won’t be able to assess the situation accurately, and you risk overlooking key details that could resolve your most pressing challenge or obstacle.
Again, rest is not a passive activity. I’m not suggesting leaders retreat, hibernate, or escape the moments of challenge. You must be fearless in pursuit of the vision that you so clearly see in your mind. But you also can’t burn up and burn out in the process either.
You must protect yourself from yourself so you can be the leader you need to be in times of challenge and success. You can only do that if you double-down on rest. Perseverance and resolve will transcend almost every season of challenge you might face.
When tough times set in, don’t lose heart. More important, don’t lose yourself in the process. You’ve come too far. Lean into the moment, adopt healthy, restful activities, and you’ll discover a personal power in your leadership that will pull you through the storm and into the calm waters just ahead.
REFLECT: Am I taking care of myself as a leader first? Or am I sacrificing myself through poor personal habits which put me at risk of sacrificing my opportunity to lead from a position of resolve and confidence? What habits do I need to change today?