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The Leadership Playbook: Leaders Don’t Have Off Days

It’s funny that people criticize the President for taking vacations (Bush) or playing golf (Obama). Do you think the President of the United States is ever really “off?” His day still starts with CIA and NSA briefings and threat assessments of the three or four hundred things that might end the world. And the rest of the world moves right along doing whatever the rest of the world is going to do, much of it requiring his attention (or at least his awareness). How soundly do you believe the President sleeps?

Leaders don’t get days off, and they aren’t allowed to have “off days.”

No Off Days

Leaders lead. That doesn’t mean that leaders sometimes lead and other times, like when they’re not feeling up to it, decide not to lead.

Leading isn’t easy. You serve too many people for it to be easy. There are days and times when you have to will yourself into the right mental state to produce the results you need. You can’t have an “off day” when you are called on to make important decisions. There is no calling for a time out or a do-over when an emergency requires you to make a tough call, one that could easily go either direction.

You can’t have an “off day” when you address the people you lead. Your address can move people in one of two directions, and an “off day” move them backwards. You can’t have an “off day” when you address your board, your largest customer, or your team. You have to be “on.”

None of this is to say that you are supposed to be invulnerable. Vulnerability can make you human and allow the people you lead to connect to you on a deeper level. But you aren’t being vulnerable when you allow your state to control you instead of controlling your state.

They Are What You Are

As a leader, you set the tone for the rest of your organization. If you are passionately engaged, the people you lead will be passionately engaged. If you aren’t, they won’t be. If it looks for a minute like you don’t care deeply about your most important initiative, your mission, your vision, your values because you are having an “off day,” the wrong message will not only be taken, it will be amplified.

Take your days off, even if you are never really off. But don’t take “off days.” There are too many people counting on you to be the leader.


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