Why Leaders Should Take Time Off (And Actually Leave)

A friend started a leadership position over a year ago. She has yet to take a vacation or personal time off. She is afraid the many balls she juggles in the air will fall and ruin office productivity.

I respectfully disagree with her reasoning. I firmly believe she actually has it backwards.

I have yet to hear of an organization that has failed due to a leader taking vacation or leave time.

Let’s be honest - you haven’t either.

Yet, many leaders feel that taking personal time is too much work (the immense amount of emails that pile up!) or potentially cause some type of harm to the office. So, they continue plugging away in the work routine.

However, lack of recharging or down time has the potential to prevent productivity and overall employee happiness, not only for the leader, but also for the employees.

The Wall Street Journal reports that research shows, "long periods of work without vacation can lead to reduced productivity, diminished creativity, and strained relationships.”

Here are at least two positive reasons why leaders should take consistent personal time off:

  1. When leaders take personal time it gives those who remain opportunity to grow and develop skills otherwise not used. Also, the leader has opportunity to see demonstrated strengths of their team to encourage upon their return.

  2. The reality is when leaders lead by example and take vacation or paid time off, they not only returned more engaged, but employees are more likely to follow suite and take personal time to then also jump on the “more engaged” wagon.

It’s a win-win for everyone.

Well known leaders, such as Virgin Atlantic’s CEO Richard Branson, routinely take personal time off to recoup energy in order to continue forward with enthusiasm and renewed focus. He recognizes the high positive returns of taking this protected time and is quoted to say he is not opposed to unlimited vacation for his employees. (I think I heard some brain cells exploding while you read that. It’s ok, mine did too.)

Regardless of whether it is a short or long period allotted for personal time, authentic leaders understand that without intentional recharging productivity wanes and engagement suffers.

Be the leader that shows by example the importance of breaks in the work routine. Your people will learn to do the same and be better off.

So will you.

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