Certain practices differentiate good leaders from great ones. I don’t want to settle for an average life, and I’m guessing you don’t either. If you’re going to grow as a leader, there are five things you should start doing as soon as possible. It doesn’t matter if you are the CEO of a company or a stay-at-home mom—whatever God has entrusted you to lead, these five practices will help. Here’s the twist, they have nothing to do with your job.
1. Spend time with family (and friends).
Close relationships with people you love are essential to fill your soul. Family and friends are the people who will get you through difficult times. Not only does your family care for you, but you must care for them. If you are winning at work but losing at home, you are losing. Period. Neglecting family is especially deceptive for ministry leaders who feel justified because they are doing the “Lord’s work.” This lie couldn’t be further from the truth. Your family is your first ministry.
2. Pray every day.
Other spiritual practices (Bible reading, Sabbath, etc.) are also critical, but prayer is non-negotiable. Praying every day is a great reminder that God is with you always. There will be days when the weight of your to-do list is too much to carry. Talking to God allows you to hand him your burdens and take his yoke in return (Matthew 11:28-30). Even if your problems don’t magically disappear, prayer is the place where God reminds you to trust him with the outcome. Remember that letting your requests be known to God opens the door for the peace that surpasses understanding (Philippians 4:6-7).
3. Read books, not tweets.
Great leaders are consistent readers. We live in a digital age where the average attention span is 8 seconds. Congratulations if you made it this far into the article! Instead of scrolling mindlessly through social media posts and sound bites, the best leaders slow down long enough to read. It doesn’t matter if you read a paper book, on a tablet, or listen to an audiobook. Try and always have something queued up on your reading list. I like to read a mixture of leadership books, spiritual formation, and novels.
4. Move your body.
Most 21st-century leaders lead a sedentary life behind a computer screen. Our modern lifestyle doesn’t give us six-pack abs. Exercise has more benefits than your physical health; it can improve your mood and help clear your mind. Find an activity you love and get after it. I like running. Lots of people hate running (they always feel the need to tell me). That’s ok. You don’t have to train for an iron man competition; try to get 30 minutes in as often as you can.
The best leaders know how to have fun. It’s essential to have areas of your life where it doesn’t matter if you win or lose. Playing games will be a game-changer for your leadership. Play allows you to destress and stop thinking about work for a few hours. Hobbies can be a bit of a double-edged sword, so you have to be careful not to lose yourself in them. As long as the amount of time, money, and energy you spend on your hobby is within reason, go for it! Give yourself permission to have fun.
I don’t have time!
Some might object, “Those things have nothing to do with leadership. I can’t spare another minute with my never-ending email inbox!” Leaders are busy. I get it. Here are a few responses to that tension.
You can’t afford not to do things that fill you up. If you do, it’s only a matter of time until you burn out. Pay attention to interviews with top-level leaders—they do these things. If the best leaders do these things, you can too!
You can kill two (or three) birds with one stone. These five practices can overlap. When I go mountain biking with my friend, I am accomplishing 1, 4, & 5. You might pray or listen to an audiobook while exercising. It’s always a good idea to incorporate your family into as much of your life as possible.
You have to learn how to add and subtract. If you are too busy for these things, the solution is to become less busy. What are the low-impact tasks you do each week that you can cut out? What are the distractions (Netflix, social media, etc.) that can be minimized or eliminated? It might be helpful to read a time management book. My favorite is Free to Focus by Michael Hyatt.
I’m not the best leader in the world. I don’t always exemplify every practice on this list. But when I do, I can tell the difference. If I start feeling worn out, I’m usually overworking and neglecting one or more of these five areas. When you prioritize these non-leadership activities, you will lead like never before.
Which number comes easiest to you? Which one do you struggle with? Let me know in the comments below!
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