Blog Post

The Downside of Leaders Not Getting Away


Summer is such a popular time for busy executives, leaders, and teams to take time away from office responsibilities to recharge. Every year, those first signs of the summer break/summer vacation season begin at some indiscernible point. You notice them in subtle but significant ways. Perhaps it’s the progressively lower angle of the sun on your morning or evening commute or maybe you notice that first “back to school” advertisement on the radio.

For some of us we also take time during the winter months. The end of year holidays are a popular season to make time for connections and recreation. Still for others, a long weekend can suffice in between. But what lies at the end of these breaks is a re-entry into the demands of our role.

So how important is it to take a break and rejuvenate to prepare for the next race? What is the downside of leaders not getting away?

The Downside of Leaders Not Getting Away

Can you boost well-being by taking a break? We talk to leaders about this all the time. In the simplest of terms, if you are not taking time to get away, you are robbing yourself of that time to reset. As a leader, you have a responsibility to your teams to wisely and frequently gauge your well-being and proactively take measures to maintain it. What happens when leaders don’t manage downtime to maximize well-being? Is there a poor “productivity culture” that emerges?

Let’s look at whole organizations. Harvard Business Review cited Project: Time-Off‘s sobering findings in their research.

  • For the first time in recorded history, in 2015 more than half of Americans (55%) left vacation days unused.
  • Americans left 658 million vacation days unused.
  • Fifty-five percent of Americans did not use all their vacation days in 2015.
  • Even when they actually do take vacation, 41 percent are checking into work while away (i.e., they are not fully unplugging).

What about executives? A startling 84 percent of U.S. executives have cancelled vacations in order to work.

For teams and leaders alike – even executives – this can lead to burnout.

A Lesson From Marathon Runners

Marathon training is grueling work. Interestingly though, in a concept called tapering, runners have a period of reduced mileage before they run the next big race. According to Runners World, “tapering is one of the most important parts of any marathon training plan, but in many cases, it’s also one of the hardest to implement. Runners tend to fear cutting back on training, since they believe doing so will hurt their performance right before their big race.” Sound familiar?

This approach of tapering is analogous with taking a break or vacation. Even in your time off, you are still making progress toward the goal by giving your body and mind the necessary time to rejuvenate before the next big race.

What About Just Doing Nothing in the Middle of Nowhere?

A fascinating recent article in the Wall Street Journal entitled, “The Ultimate Luxury Vacation: Doing Nothing in the Middle of Nowhere” highlights the recent trend of leaders looking to truly get away and unplug and have the necessary time away from digital demands. Popular now are vacations that take families to remote locations which eliminate creature comforts and the attending distractions. Guestbooks are filled with reason for the hassle of getting to Nowhere. “It is filled with entries about the clarity of the Milky Way, the sound of the wind, the sight of cows in the morning mist. “Like a fool, I packed makeup,” one guest wrote, “and promptly realized there was no mirror.”

Rejuvenate, Reignite, and Restore

What are the benefits to our well-being? There is ample data on how “unplugging” can boost your wellbeing.

  • Rejuvenates Energy – Being rested and recuperated, leaders will have a renewed capacity for the physical demands of long pressure-filled days.
  • Reignites Creativity – With a refreshed mind, leaders find that their mental capacity for generating new ideas and perspectives is increased.
  • Restores a Positive Outlook – The reconnection to nature and loved ones along with the opportunity for reflection and introspection yields a renewal of the soul and a restoration of servant leadership and purpose-driven moments.
Balancing the demands of executive and leadership roles is challenging in addition to the downside of leaders not getting away. Looking for guidance? Let’s start a conversation.

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