Everyone understands leaders should make time to recharge, yet there are also expectations these days that they remain available, informed and plugged in while on vacation. How should they strike that balance?
The word "vacation" comes from the Latin root vacare, which means, "to be unoccupied." When leaders go on vacation they should "vacate" their job and title. If properly undertaken, vacations are more than therapeutic - they are constructive. Leaders need to get away because it is easy for them to lose perspective on themselves and their work. This loss of perspective sometimes results in unethical and/or ineffective behavior. Vacations offer leaders a different place to stand - an observation point for looking at who they are and what they do.
The British essayist and self-confessed workaholic, G.K. Chesterton, suggested in his 1928 essay, "On Leisure," that three ways to properly enjoy one's leisure:
The first is being allowed to do something. The second is being allowed to do anything and the third (and perhaps most rare and precious) is being allowed to do nothing.Leaders should try hard to heed Chesterton's advice even if they have a duty to be reachable at all times. There are few leaders who have to be as on call much as the president, but even he can steal some time to do something, anything, or nothing.
Leaders who are unable to take vacations or unplug while on vacation may not be very good leaders because they have failed to develop a staff that they trust to run things or make good judgments on when to call them if there is a problem, or they are insecure in their position. A good leader should be able to vacate the office with the instructions: "I will not check-in, call, email, text, or tweet you, but you can reach me at this number if there is a problem."
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