The Rest Of Leadership

Paul Heagen Purposeful Leadership & Living Leave a Comment

Who gets by working 120 hours a week?

Apparently not Elon Musk. 

Or anyone else, for that matter. 

The evidence of Elon’s sleep deprivation has been mounting for some time — suing employees, calling cave rescuers pedophiles, joking about declaring bankruptcy, and sort of kind of jacking the markets with an impulsive tweet about having secured financing to take Tesla private. Crazy. 

During an hour-long New York Times interview (in which he whipsawed between nervous laughter and dam-breaking tears) he offered a rumination that is quite revealing as to the motive behind his role as Sleepwalker-In-Residence:

“If you have anyone who can do a better job, please let me know. They can have the job. Is there someone who can do the job better? They can have the reins right now.”

Elon is a paragon of the kind of innovator and convention-buster we celebrate, but overworked, over-stressed and consumed with the delusion that he is irreplaceable, he is a pile of mush. 

The neuropsychologist William D. “Scott” Kilgore, PhD, has done extensive studies on the effects of sleep deprivation (and its dark cousin Overwork) on executive functions such as decision making and even motor skills. All that suffers some from lack of shut-eye for a while, but what does degrade inexorably and rapidly is our ability to create, connect the dots of divergent data, explore ideas, and be innovative.  What is leadership if lacking those pursuits?

As much as we might tsk-tsk at his imbalance, we can all be subject to it in our stimulus-saturated world. As I and my co-author Doug Sterbenz talk about in our new book Must Be Present To Win, being present as a leader demands that we be in the moment — rested, attentive, undistracted, and patient. None of those qualities finds space if we are too busy, too tired, even feeling too important. 

Your brain, your heart, your soul, your body itself. needs a rest — to renew, to be reshaped, to simply have something else to do other than doing. Great leaders are those who have embraced the discipline to carve out the time for reflection, deep rest, unapologetic retreat. To be present in your enterprise, you have to have presence of mind, and that comes from a mind well-rested. 

So often, you hear people say — or boast — “Oh, I’m crazy busy, but it’s a good busy.”

No, it might be just crazy. 

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