I used to be afraid of failing at something that really mattered to me, but now I’m more afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter. – Bob Goff
It seems to me that so many leaders today are running on fumes. They are exhausted, depleted and therefore, ineffective. You can have the greatest car in the world, but if there is no gas in the tank, it won’t go anywhere. In fact, the 20-year-old beat up car will outperform the nicer car if there is no gas in the tank. This is a good time of year to make sure that we are re-filling our metaphorical leadership tanks.
At the same time, we have to understand that our responsibilities continue. Just because the weather is beautiful and the water is calling our name does not mean we can check out and ignore our leadership. Instead of falling in the ditch on either side, we have to be like the fighter planes that get re-fueled in the air so that they can continue to fly. We have to rest and we have to run.
For me, this happens through elimination. I don’t have permission to stop leading or to stop working, so the only way I can replenish my tank and create capacity is to quit doing things that are not an integral part of my leadership.
Our friend Bob Goff talks about quitting something every Thursday in his book, Love Does. Why? There’s nothing necessarily significant about Thursdays, but the point is that we are all doing things that are not mission critical, that zap our time, our passion and our energy. By quitting something once a week, or maybe once a month, it forces leaders to examine how we’re spending our time.
We all get “crud” in our calendars or schedules. No matter how vigilant we are, it somehow finds a way to sneak in. Summer is a great time to stop and think about how we can gain capacity. What are we doing that we should stop? What should we be redirecting our focus to?
Last year, I shared my goal of reading 100 books in one year. I thought it was a noble goal that would excel my leadership until someone asked me, “What is significant about 100?” I realized that I just picked 100 and there was nothing special about it. I was reading books that I didn’t have any interest in just to meet this goal. I was reading books that I did love so fast that I started to miss the important parts. I decided then that the self-imposed goal of 100 books had become the “crud” that I needed to clean out of my schedule, so I quit.
Don’t get me wrong, I am still an avid reader, but now I am reading and enjoying books that can help me become a better leader. As leaders, we have to evaluate why we are doing things. As I’ve looked at my own leadership, I’ve learned that busyness is not a function of our many responsibilities, often busyness is a function of our egos.
Many times as leaders we want to talk about how busy we are, how many hours we’ve worked and make excuses for why we have bad attitudes, but that is about ego, not effective leadership. As Jim Collins says, “It’s not that Level 5 leaders have no ego or self-interest. Indeed, they are incredibly ambitious—but their ambition is first and foremost for the institution, not themselves.”
Great leaders protect the space in their lives so that they can serve others well. This summer, I challenge you to rest and run. Finding that balance will allow you to truly excel in your leadership.
Question: It’s Thursday – what can you quit today?