The Rested Leader, Part 1

Is it possible to be an incredibly effective and purpose driven leader and human, and also experience profound rest from the inside out?

What kind of rest do we need?

I count myself privileged to regularly engage the company of purpose driven leaders from diverse verticals- public and private sector, non-profit, education, faith, healthcare, law enforcement. We relish the opportunity to gather together to discuss strategy, gaps, projects, visions, and find kindredness in one another. Inevitably, we land on life and balance near the end of conversation, and the admission of how tired we are. An afterthought in the last 10 minutes- but perhaps the most important topic of all. Most I speak with, there is a mutual drive and vision to audaciously push the boundaries of what is possible, yet we struggle with rest (or the ability to refresh, recover, renew, and restore back what we have given out).

Perhaps it’s restlessness that drives our passion, but that same restlessness is resulting in an ever present weariness, even more so during the pandemic, and in some cases, it is limiting our capacity to lead well. Our typical strategies- time off, sleep aids, Sabbath, vacations, meditation, sabbaticals, health regimes- can offer just in time relief, but the rest we feel is temporary.

This is where it starts to unhinge. Ever present restlessness is followed by low energy and mood, frustration with no outlet resulting in less than healthy activities and behaviours, the hampering of vision and hope, and even insomnia.

The inner dialogue of justification begins. Everyone is tired, right? This is part of it. Part of being a leader. A parent. A partner. A commuter. A C-suite leader. A (insert profession here). A (insert challenge or barrier we are experiencing here).

Let’s challenge this. Is it possible to be an incredibly effective and purpose driven leader and human, and also experience profound rest from the inside out? Could we make decisions and yield influence from a well that maintains a consistently high water level? Could we unlock our highest capacity and broadest compassionate engagement with the world by living in balance?

I have spent the last few years diving deeper into rest, seeking to find my own effective equation and grow my leadership from a rested place, and wanted to share some insights that have been transformational for myself and others, starting with self awareness and reflection.

  • The Type of Rest You Need: We often equate rest with time off and sleep, but there are many different kinds of rest- physical, mental, social, sensory, creative, emotional, and spiritual. I would argue many of us aren’t seeking the right kind of rest, and it’s one of the reasons we don’t feel rested. Dr Saundra Dalton-Smith challenges that “sleep alone can’t restore us to the point we feel rested. So it’s time for us to begin focusing on getting the right type of rest we need.” More often than not for me, it’s creative and spiritual rest I need the most. What kind of rest are you lacking? Learn more here.

  • The Clock You Alone Follow: Another core insight that has been helpful is to understand my genetic chronotype, or how my internal chronobiological clock works (free assessment from Dr. Michel Breus found here). We are all different, but we are usually working schedules that are not designed well for our output, which increases our restlessness and frustration. With covid-19, there is opportunity for adjustments in schedules, working from home, and perhaps space for us to establish the hours we need. It’s also a strong argument for diversity as leaders to support our teams to work non-time sensitive roles with flexibility.

  • Engagement in Mindful Personal Formation: A thought that was proposed to me by a wise mentor warrants sharing; one of the benefits of being an adult in a developed country is choice. The choice to determine who you will be and how you live. I spend my days designing initiatives for those who have had their freedom taken away, including victims of unethical supply chains and abuse. But most of us have the privilege of determining how we spend our time and show up in the world. This is within our sphere of control to one degree or another. How are we stewarding that privilege? Are we a victim to our self determined schedules? Do we allow busyness and weariness to be the true hallmarks of our leadership? Do we allow restlessness to lead to self imposed over-scheduling and distracted behaviours? These are the questions I asked myself starting this journey.

Take me up on my challenge- let’s do some introspection, and explore what it means for us to be Rested Leaders. Our next blog article will dive deeper into physical rest, sleep, and confronting insomnia.

Learn more about the great work of @Drdaltonsmith here and take the free rest quiz here.

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