Leaders with passion cannot burnout, but they can become worn-out. Leaders know intuitively that they are not created to withdraw their passion from life. The notion of resting is often mistakenly confused with withdrawing passion from life—a leader’s worst nightmare. Truly, in order to avoid becoming worn-out, a leader must do the hard work of learning how to rest and discovering its creative benefits. Once the leader experiences the benefits of rest, they become attracted to its value. After experiencing the value of rest, leaders can rest comfortably in the knowledge that being a leader necessitates rest to refuel for the continued pursuit of the dream.
A leader with a passion has a purpose, whether the purpose is that of a parent leading a child or a president nurturing a nation. Passion is a willingness to be in pain for something that matters more than pain. With this passion comes resilience—the ability to recover from the travails and struggles that inevitably come when a person cares about something greatly. Passion and resilience are integral to leading well. Leaders become worn out—waning passion and diminished resilience—when they begin to work out of fear that their dream will never be accomplished, versus recovering energy to live in the passion.
Leaders, then, become worn-out by not being able to stop being a person always on task. The leader becomes worn-out by not doing the “hard work” of rest. In order to work at optimum ability, a leader must learn to stop and rest, which means trusting the passion enough to step away for a time.
Rest has in it multiple facets, a whole discipline of “re” features: recognition, replenishment, restoration, relief, and recreation. The “re” features of rest raise one’s ability to tolerate frustration and complications, and lower one’s tendency toward compulsive, controlling actions. Low frustration tolerance and compulsive, controlling actions isolate the leader from the people they need. Therefore, to lead well, one needs to have daily and extended “re” time devoted to being away from life’s work.
Leaders need to plan distance from their construction site. Below are some examples of the “re” features of rest:
- Leaders need to stop and re-cognize the limits of their own humanity. The passion they hold within them is greater than the mental/physical body can contain without being cared for. This care (being tended to) must be related to the heart, which is the home of passion. A leader stops, talks about their own needs, frustrations, heartache, and hopes, in order to receive acceptance of their limitations.
- Leaders need to stop to re-plenish. Replenishment can occur when leaders face that they pour themselves out, i.e., give completely; they stop to re-store the energy that has been expended. They talk to others who can relate to their experiences and offer confidence and hope that can affirm and confirm the leader’s efforts. Without replenishment, the leader’s disposition will not match the passion that began their effort. Replenishment cannot happen at work. Leaders replenish by stepping away from the construction site and relating to people (and God) who know struggle and solution. Leaders replenish and restore by being in the lives of loved ones who remind them of their gifts.
- Leaders need to stop when they recognize that they are confused or experiencing a sense of helplessness. They need re-lief (literally, to live again). Confused or helpless leaders find themselves restless, irritable, and discontent. Relief can come from re-creating. Recreation, the experience of being remade, comes from moving back from the purpose of the passion by doing something else entirely, so that the purpose becomes something “fun” again, more than something to achieve.
These few “re” recognitions can be done daily, and can be done in longer, planned chunks of time. They are essential for the leader because leaders cannot stop envisioning and do not need to do so. However, if they do not stop and practice rest, they can become worn-out.
Remember this: Rest is not complicated. The leader’s fear of it is complicating. When you were younger, you may have liked to pitch baseball or draw. Any of us can stop and pitch a ball against the side of the house for a few minutes a day, or pick up a pencil and draw on scrap paper. This movement will take the leader to simpler times, perhaps even bring sadness of missing childhood, or missing a time before the leader knew that life was hard. This brief moment of throwing or drawing can add to the leader’s fulfillment just by stopping and remembering—to put one’s self back together. Hope and strength return when we remember.
The life of a leader is too brief as it is, because their dreams are bigger than they can ever accomplish. This reality is exhausting in itself. Knowing that the dream is bigger than our own abilities calls us to take breaks from it, because the dream will never be fully finished. We are in the grip of something greater than ourselves when we lead with passion. To find as much fulfillment as possible from leading, a leader must learn the paradoxical productivity of stopping and resting.