Leadership Skills: Care of Self

Among all the Leadership Principles and Leadership Skills, Self Care Stands Alone in Importance

Happiness, it seems to me, consists of two things: first, in being where you belong and second—and best—in comfortably going through everyday life, that is, having a good night’s sleep and not being hurt by new shoes.  – Theodor Fontane

Wayne Muller

Wayne Muller, in his book A Life of Being, Having, and Doing Enoughprovides many points helpful to the church professional in the area of self care. We talk about Sabbath. We sing sacred texts about Sabbath. However, we work to get things done and complain that there is not enough time to finish everything on our list.

One pastor’s wife shared with me that, in her opinion, the church was a big black hole. I laughed at the thought of the vastness of the black hole that could not ever be filled. It was not until many years later, when I saw a NASA film about the black hole, that the weight of that descriptive term became clear to me. When being pulled into this vast empty space, the body accelerates. But the head and feet accelerate at different speeds, which means that the body is pulled apart by the force of that unequal acceleration. This gave me an entirely different perspective on that quote. I then decided to not get sucked into the black hole.

We work for the church. We serve God. Which of those takes priority in our decisions?

Our common assumptions (I say our because I spent 40 years overworking and overfunctioning) are that more work makes us better leaders, better Christians, and better servants in God’s kingdom. I learned from my mistakes and now teach others to do the same.

Let’s reverse this paradigm. Rest is mandated by scripture. It’s not suggested. It’s required. So, when we disobey that mandate, are we disobedient to scripture? When we overfunction, doing tasks that other members in ministry could do, are we then irresponsible as leaders? I say yes!

In the words of Murray Bowen, creator of Bowen family systems theory, overfunctioning is irresponsible responsibility. We do things that others could do. This sends a message that they are not worthy, that we are better than they are, and possibly that we don’t care about their contribution. They are then unfulfilled and frustrated. We are overworked and frustrated. Nobody wins.  Besides this, we are robbing a member of an opportunity for Christian service.

There is a difference between being called and being driven. The driven leader is never fulfilled and can never accomplish enough to feel complete. Carving out time for self care is the duty and delight of the Christian leader called to Christian service.

In my four Transformational Leadership principles (Foundations, Relationships, Systems, and Balance), this essay is about Balance. Balance makes the other principles work. Balance, in this context, is not about equality. Balance in music is sometimes about being sure that the trumpets or the tenors are not overpowering the other sections.  Balance in life is about work and rest. Balance is about physical, mental, spiritual, relational, and emotional factors. If we are to be a whole person, we must learn to carve out time for each of those factors. We must also balance work and personal life. Balance is being healthy.

As Muller writes, balance is very important to our health:

Studies at the University of Westminster, and regularly corroborated by others, show that most people benefit most from an average of 8.1 hours of sleep per night. Yet in 2008, the Centers for Disease Control reported that the number of Americans getting less than five or six hours of sleep a night has steadily increased over the last two decades, leaving fewer people feeling well-rested.

The simple truth is this: The less we sleep, the more fragile and ineffective we become—by nearly every conceivable measure. Decreasing our sleep by as little as an hour a night can cause us to lose as much as 32 percent of our ability to pay attention at work. This also impairs memory and cognitive ability—our capacity to think clearly and process information correctly. *

The effective, healthy, and vital Transformational Leader models excellence for others to see and experience. As in conducting, those whom we lead reflect our persona and respond to our influence.

Put personal time on your calendar. Put recreation, rest, study, and planning time on your calendar. We give time to what’s important.  We, as leaders, as people of God, are important. Putting yourself on your calendar as an action item gives priority to yourself.

Strategies for Balance

  • Identify monthly/weekly objectives
  • Break them into action steps
  • Time-activate action items (calendar)
  • Set aside time to plan, evaluate, rest, and recreate
  • Schedule times for spiritual growth, reading, study, meditation, and prayer
  • Schedule team activities
  • Stick with your plan

Be your best by showing up rested, refreshed, and regenerated.

Here is a list of books I find helpful:

A Life of Being, Having, and Doing Enough – Wayne Muller

Running the Spiritual Path: A Runner’s Guide to Breathing, Meditating, and Exploring the Prayerful Dimension of the Sport – Roger Joslin

Cornerstone Concept – Roberta Gilbert

The Bible
And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made. (Genesis 2:3 KJV)

It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed. (Exodus 31:17 KJV)

*Muller, Wayne (2010-03-31). A Life of Being, Having, and Doing Enoughir.gif (pp. 208-209). Random House, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Hugh Ballou
The Transformational Leadership Strategist

(c) 2013 Hugh Ballou. All rights reserved.


Hugh Ballou (Author)