I’m not in top form today. My mind is slower and my body is weaker. I attended a regular Monday-morning meeting (at 6am!) today and could tell in the first 15 minutes that I am less focused, tired, not thinking sharp…generally off my game. It took me only a split-second to recognize why: I am fasting for a medical procedure. Clear liquids only. My mind and body are not getting the nourishment needed to function at their best. They don’t have the fuel necessary to perform at peak efficiency. (Even this paragraph took twice as long to craft as usual.) Leaders need nourishment, too.
The human body needs many specific nutrients, but they can be categorized into major groups. There are many specific ways a leader should be nourished, but I have major groups listed below.
There are many things leaders need to study and learn. These can be broken into three sub-groups: directly related the your responsibilities, peripherally related, and not related. Directly related knowledge covers both the skills of the work you are leading as well as leadership of those doing that work. Peripherally related knowledge is those topics that help you understand how your work relates to others’ work. Unrelated knowledge are subjects that, while they may not seem to be directly helpful to you on the job, they are immensely helpful in problem solving and innovation, and they help you grow as a person.
Leaders are also nourished by developing healthy relationships. In those relationships, you learn to see life and work through others’ eyes and to be reminded of what’s important to the people you are serving. This creates a practical grounding and real-world reference point that leaders depend on in daily work.
The Word of God
More important than practical grounding and having real-world reference points is the ability to to see life and work through God’s eyes and be reminded of what’s truly important about the work you do and all of life. People sometimes ask me about patterns I see across the many leaders I’ve worked with over many years. One pattern is this: Leaders who know God by spending time in Holy Scripture are able to weather the storms of leadership better and are more effective in guiding followers.
While this isn’t a form of nourishment, it is equally important. No amount of nourishment can overcome a lack of rest. You must have time, on a regular basis, away from work to laugh, play, and enjoy life. What is “regular”? Each person needs to define this, but if taking one day off each week was good enough for God, it should be for you, too. Beyond a weekly day of rest, you need to be able to have regular extended times off. When I meet leaders who haven’t taken a vacation in years, I know I’ve met a leader experiencing crisis somewhere in life (usually their family) or about to experience that crisis. At the other end of the spectrum, you must get enough sleep every day!
Knowledge, relationships, Scripture, rest.
That’s not a long list of nourishment needs, but it takes discipline to engage in those consistently.
What is your strength in that list? What is your weakness? Develop a plan to:
- Further leverage where you are already effectively getting nourished as a leader, and
- Develop a strategy to improve where you are weakest. Make it a 3-month project. Re-assess after three months and develop a new plan.
Can you help me? In my coaching work, I see the leadership malnourishment all the time. Would you please share your nourishment strategies with me?
Dr. Scott Yorkovich is a leadership coach and consultant. He works with individuals, small and medium organizations, and ministries. Contact him at ScottYorkovich[at]LeadStrategic.com with your questions.
Photo “The 7 Breakfasts” by Or Hiltch. Available at Flickr.com.