I work with senior leaders in companies around the world. They lead organizations from very diverse industries. Some work in the private sector, others in the public. I have consulted with brand new CEO’s and those who have been in their position for a decade or more.
They all have four things in common.
- They are almost always over-scheduled.
- Meetings stack up on top of each other.
- They don’t get home from the office until late in the evening — that’s if they are even in town.
- Few have time for anything besides golf outside of work — and even most rounds at the course are dedicated to working on a new deal of some type with their playing partners.
There is important work to be done.
Common sense would tell you that getting away from the constant grind would be a good idea. Time away from any task gives your subconscious a chance to work on problems and challenges. Often this approach will lead to innovative solutions.
Great leaders follow this path. John Wooden who coached UCLA’s basketball team to 9 straight college basketball titles and 10 of 12 emphasizes patience as a key attribute of effective leaders. (Look here for more that I’ve written on Wooden’s leadership philosophy. So if you believe that the “Wizard of Westwood” knows something about leadership, you’re still faced with the question, “What am I supposed to do with the time when I’m being patient?”
Find a hobby
Sound like a stretch of an idea? It’s not a new or untested concept. Though not well known, Albert Einstein got many of his insights and ideas while sailing.
Steve Jurvetson, a principle at venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson, recently contributed an article in Harvard Business Review on how leaders can “build a better brain.” He cites research debunking the commonly held belief that we have a fixed number of neurons that gradually decrease throughout life. The real story is that neurons are getting formed and erased all the time. This is called neurplasticity. I’ve written elsewhere about this phenomena and how it impacts change efforts.
Interestingly, you can increase or decrease the rate of this “rewiring” through cognitive exercise. What works with physical muscles does the same for our intellectual muscle, also known as our brain.
Jurvetson explains how hobbies are essential for anyone interested in growing their brain. His preferred hobby is building and shooting off model rockets.
If model rockets aren’t your thing, find something that is.
- One client of mine has become a connoisseur of fine wines. Go to dinner with him and he can tell you which vintages from anywhere in the world are the best ones to order.
- Another leader I know is very active in his community and church outreach activities.
- A third has a few Harleys and loves nothing better than polishing them up and heading out for long Sunday afternoon rides.
What do you do outside of work? For me it’s collecting baseball cards (63,000 and counting), fishing or playing basketball with my son, and most recently playing a colored ball version of Sodoku.