Vacation: The True Sign of a Great Leader


Vacation: The True Sign of a Great Leader

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As summer quickly comes to a close, I find myself reflecting on the many different leaders I have the privilege of coaching these days. One of whom actually took an extended 4-week vacation this summer, and another who worked her way through a shorter 1-week family trip to Hawaii.

Let’s be clear. I am not judging either of these otherwise very busy and successful results-oriented executives. One for leaving his team to their own devices for an entire month. One for not getting the quality get-away with her family that she had expected. I’m simply recognizing the value of getting away for some good old-fashioned R&R from time to time. The physical and emotional break from work not only gives our bodies the rest they need but also gives our minds the fresh perspective to contribute when we return to work. 

Research shows that it takes us days to truly “get away” when we leave on vacation – and that assumes we do actually check out instead of staying connected with our iPhones and laptops when we leave. That same research also shows how our vacations typically end much sooner than our flights back home because we start thinking about – and perhaps dreading – what awaits us at work days before we return. This means that a one-week vacation isn’t really a one-week vacation. At best, it may be a day or two if you don’t put the systems and processes in place to maximize your time away and minimize your work-related distractions.

Separate from your getting away to rest and recharge, the added benefit of being gone is that it gives your teams a chance to step up and assume added responsibilities. This may be the best way for them to demonstrate their true abilities! Before my client took his extended vacation, for example, he identified who on his team would play what critical roles as his delegates for certain business needs. They then gained great exposure to the other senior executives because of these temporarily elevated roles. By the way, he also established an “emergency plan” that if anything dire happened his team would notify his assistant and that she would contact him if needed. Otherwise, nobody was to expect a response to their phone calls or emails until he returned.

If we don’t disconnect and empower our teams to take over while we are away – or even worse, if we never even get away – then our teams don’t have that same developmental opportunity. We, instead, make our teams dependent upon us, and we set the precedent that nothing strategic can ever happen in our absence. As you can imagine, this isn’t healthy for our organizations, and it isn’t inspiring for our teams!

So before your summer comes to a close, I invite you to consider your plans to develop your teams by getting away on vacation. If it’s too late for you this summer, surely before year-end or perhaps as you plan your priorities for next year, think about where you’d go and what you’d do if you could get away. Then consider what the members of your team would need to do if you did disappear for even a week. This is the true sign of a great leader, and the break will serve you and your team well.

Give us a call at 310.589.4610 or email us if we can help you lead through vacation. You can also visit the Executive Coaching page of our website to see how we coach our clients to rethink their traditional leadership practices and achieve even greater successes with their teams.

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