Healthy Leaders Can’t Lead On Empty


I was recently talking with a friend who is a leader at his church.  From the beginning of our conversation I could tell this guy was feeling bummed out, burned out, and on the verge of being on empty!  His leadership position had taken a toll on himself, his family, and the position he leads in.  I’ve been there, and I’m sure you have too!

The position of leadership never stops and in today’s world with all the many ways to stay connected and plugged in, it can force us to do work 24/7.  There are always ideas, opportunities, issues, people, reports, and many other things to stay on top of.  And then there’s the never-ending joy of pressing forward with the vision and mission of the organization.  No matter what it is or what we’re doing, there are always things that can drain leaders to being empty, leaving us as an unhealthy leader.

This has been an ongoing struggle in my own life and my leadership.  Over the years, I have had some wonderful leadership mentors who have invested in me and spoken into my life to help me to stay healthy as a leader.  One of the greatest resources I have is a book entitled, Leading on Empty: Refilling Your Tank and Renewing Your Passion.

Here are four things from this book I’ve learned, and I’m continuing to learn and apply to my life as a leader:

  1. Be Still – Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God.”
    This is the first time in this Psalm that God speaks.  And when He does, He is literally saying, “Take your hands off!”  “Relax!”  Sounds easy, right?  However, as leaders we are prone to be “hands-on” people and managers of everything.  But remember, God is God, and we are not, so we can just “Relax” and enjoy times of refreshing.
  2. Rest – Genesis 2:3 “So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.”
    It’s okay, even Biblical, to REST!  Be intentional with a daily time of resting in the Word of God and in Prayer.  Here’s a POST I wrote on this very thing!  Second, take a weekly day off, totally unplugged, and not connected to your work.  On this day, spend time outside with your family doing something you love.  Third, take a monthly day where you spend it totally alone with just you and God.  This is a great time to read, pray, journal, and dream about what God might have in store for you and your organization.  And lastly, plan an annual retreat/vacation with your family.  Once again, all of these times of rest are meant to be unplugged, and not connected!
  3. Manage Your Calendar, Don’t Let It Manage You – Psalm 90:12 “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”  
    Set your calendar and stick to it.  Setting your calendar includes the daily activities of your life, your family activities, as well as the life of the organization you lead.  Because of the world we live in, our work life, personal life, and family life have the potential to become one.  Make sure you prioritize your health, your marriage, your family, your friends, your ministry, and your leadership position.  It’s imperative to set healthy boundaries, and learn to say no with grace.  If you’re looking for a great weekend with your spouse, join my wife Sally and I for The Art Of Marriage Conference in January!
  4. Enjoy Life – Psalm 126:2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.”  Laughter and joy in life is good for the soul, and good for all those around you.  When we can take a step back to enjoy life, laugh a little, and not be so serious all the time, we will experience much joy by being reminded that God is, and has, and will do great things!

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