Rest and Servant Leadership: Why You Can’t Give What You Don’t Have

There’s a shift happening in today’s corporate structures. Employees are clamoring for servant leaders—managers, executives, and directors who will set aside personal gain for the good of the company and of others

I’d like to think that this rise in demand will lead to more servant leaders in the marketplace. It’s not far from possible. Imagine what it would be like to come to work knowing that you are under leaders that look out for you, help you grow, believe in you and invest into your life. 

As much as we want that to happen, there are still barriers to this. And one challenge is being overlooked. Why aren’t there more servant leaders in the workplace than we’d like? It could be entitlement, greed or resistance to change. But many times it’s none of those. Sometimes, your leaders are just tired. 

A 2015 Labor Force Survey by the Philippine Statistics Authority showed that 30.7% of overworked people are those in management. Leaders are known to work longer hours, deal with more stressful decisions and carry more weight on their shoulders. We’re losing many of our best leaders to burnout and fatigue.

Diminishing Returns and New Perspectives 

Servant leadership is first and foremost about getting things done. And naturally we think that if we want more things to happen for our people and our organisations that we have to work more. Sounds reasonable right? More work equals more results. 

But that’s not always the case. Studies show that work productivity drops around the 50-hour mark. In this case, more work actually means less results. 

As leaders who want to serve our teams, we need to come to the realization that we serve them best when we are at our optimal best. Taking time off work, whether on days off or a vacation, has been known to give us a new perspective on things. Our best ideas come to us when we’re well rested—when we get enough sleep, our minds are clear and we’re not rushing through work and life. 

This isn’t rare knowledge. We all have experienced those eureka moments when we’re at the beach or simply enjoying a cup of coffee at home. So if we know our best strategies, why don’t we rest more?

Refusing to Rest Turns Us into Black Holes

Burnout and fatigue are known to transform us. We’re more irritable when we’re exhausted. I can’t count the number of times I’ve snapped at staff, my kids or motorcycles that counterflow in traffic because I was overworked. Had any of those people caught me at a better time, my reaction would have been much kinder. (Maybe except for the counter flowing motorists. Just maybe.)

We become the cause that people make sharp u-turns in the hallways when we’re tired. And when we’re emotional baggage and corporate black holes, it’s virtually impossible to be of service. If we want to be the best servant leaders we can be, we need to deploy a consistent commitment towards self-care.  

You Can’t Give What You Don’t Have

I often get asked why I wrote my book, “Break: Conquering Burnout with Sabbath Rest.” My intention was always to speak to leaders, because in order to serve, I truly believe that leaders need to learn how to rest. Self-care should be a necessity to the servant leader. We serve best when we are at our best. And we can be at our optimal best when we rest. 

So take time off work on the weekends. Take your spouses out to a date night. Enjoy time with family and friends. Maybe even travel or plan a staycation. There’s nothing wrong in wanting to slow down. In fact, I will say that your leadership, team, and company success depends on it. 

Slow down. Take time to rest. When you do, serving will become a joy and delight. Not a chore we dread.

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