Leaders Who Disconnect: Why We Should Learn From Them

May 30, 2018 1 Min Read
disconnect, rest, peace
Take Time Off To Recharge
[This article was published at an earlier date]
[Updated on 30 May 2018]

All of the successful leaders I’ve met over the years have worked hard to realise their ambitions, and also to ensure they never rest on their laurels – an attitude that allows them to maintain their competitive edge in this age of continual disruption.

Great leaders are always looking to expand their knowledge and develop new skills. They work on honing their emotional intelligence and social awareness; and they make sure to keep themselves in touch with the people around them, so they always have their finger on the pulse when it comes to knowing what’s working well and which areas of business need improving.

The most effective leaders I’ve met possess all these qualities, and they make sure to motivate and push themselves twice as hard as anyone else. But there is one difference that separates the exceptional leaders from good leaders: they know the value and the importance of regularly taking time for themselves that doesn’t involve their work.

nature forest

Great leaders who take time off to recharge

Sir Richard Branson, for example, is one for taking long vacations or simply spending time relaxing at home. Explaining why taking time off is important for him, he says: “I make sure that I disconnect by leaving my smartphone at home or in the hotel room for as long as possible – days, if I can – and bring a notepad and pen with me instead. Freed from the daily stresses of my working life, I find that I am more likely to have new insights into old problems and other flashes of inspiration.”

Netflix chief executive officer (CEO), Reed Hastings, has a similar attitude. Taking six weeks’ vacation every year, he explains that, “It is helpful. You often do your best thinking when you’re off hiking in some mountain or something. You get a different perspective on things.”

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer – like many business leaders – has a heavily packed schedule, often with 70 meetings scheduled in a week that take up to 10 or 11 hours a day. We might imagine such a schedule is inevitably going to result in burnout for the busy businesswoman; however, she maintains balance by taking a week-long vacation every four months.

Meanwhile, former eBay CEO John Donahoe advocates making use of “thinking days” at least every few months. During this time, he squirrels himself away alone in an office, and writes ideas on a whiteboard after reflecting on what’s going on in the world and where he can make improvements to business. “I think about what I have learnt, which areas require my attention, and what changes I need to make – and remind myself not to worry about events over which I have no control.” He insists there’s “no substitute for taking a legitimate vacation”, and takes his family on annual vacation to their Cape Cod beach house, where he completely disconnects for two weeks.

Taking vacation

Make time for things you truly value

In decades gone by, there has been the attitude – of which remnants remain – that to take time off equates to being lazy, demotivated, and indifferent to one’s goals and objectives. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In making sure we take quality time away from our work – however passionate we are about it – we allow our batteries to recharge, new ideas to blossom, fresh perspectives to emerge, and our emotional well-being to increase. In making time for ourselves, we return to business more creative and with an increase in our productivity.

But while all the above is important to our success – and to the successes of those we lead – it’s when we don’t take time for ourselves, to spend with our friends and family to engage in some quality time, that we eventually end up with regrets that we didn’t make enough time for the things we truly value.

Yes, being successful in our professional lives means we can support our families and provide a decent education for our children – no one would suggest that we should neglect such endeavours and responsibilities. However, our generosity and our support comes in many forms, and of the things we can give to our loved ones, perhaps our time and presence is the most valuable gift of all.

It’s about striking a balance. The reason our time is precious is because it’s never guaranteed, which is why we should regularly use some of it to purely enjoy this gift of life that we have, and to appreciate all the things and the people that make life such a treasured privilege.

Bringing it all together

With these examples in mind, I trust we can all take some time to reflect on the blessings we are fortunate to receive. I know at my next “Time Off” I’ll be thinking about how thankful I am for my family and friends, and my colleagues and connections who have allowed me to enjoy such a wonderful journey thus far, both professionally and personally. Behind each one of us is a great community of people who help us to thrive – they are surely one of our greatest blessings.

Whatever you’re up to in the coming weeks and months, I hope that you will be able to find time for yourself and loved ones, to relax and reflect, and return to business reinvigorated, re-energised, and raring to go with an abundance of new ideas, creativity and innovations.



Feel free to connect with Roshan on Twitter and on Facebook for more insights into business, personal development, and leadership. For more Be A Leader articles, click here. To share how you are going to recharge yourself, email us at editor@leaderonomics.com.

Article first published on LinkedIn.

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Roshan is the Founder and “Kuli” of the Leaderonomics Group of companies. He believes that everyone can be a leader and "make a dent in the universe," in their own special ways. He is featured on TV, radio and numerous publications sharing the Science of Building Leaders and on leadership development. Follow him at www.roshanthiran.com


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