Getting Rest is Important for a Leader

By | August 18, 2018

[August 18, 2018]  Many years ago as a Platoon Leader in the U.S. Army Infantry, I learned a valuable lesson the hard way.  My platoon was being evaluated and I’d gone nearly four days without sleep getting everything ready.  When the time came for me to lead my unit, I was as utterly useless … not unlike being a battlefield casualty.  Getting rest is crucial for a fully functioning leader.

The lesson was simple but I’d never really believed lack of rest can do to a person psychologically.  I thought I could just “push through it,” as we had been told to do.  Getting bad advice was only part of the problem; I listened to that advice and to my embarrassment.

I made stupid mistakes.  I couldn’t focus or even tell the time of day.  My body felt like lead and all I could think about was getting some sleep.  In effect, I’d failed my platoon’s soldiers and my commander; all who had depended upon me to do the right thing.

Rest makes you a smarter leader.  It is interesting how important this is and thinking back, I remembered reading about rest in the Bible.  All major religions make reference to the criticality of rest in some way.

And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.” – The Bible, Genesis 2:2-3 New King James Version

There are several ways you can rest and recharge your mind.  Some of them are: go for a walk, listen to music, meditate, doodle on a notepad, and make sure your sleep time is uninterrupted.  Leaders must make the time to take care of themselves by getting enough rest, exercise, and eating the right foods.  They should also be spending time with their families.

Elon Musk, the chairman and CEO of electric-car maker Tesla found this out the hard way.  He violated all the hallmarks of a good leader and didn’t get the appropriate amount of rest (by his own admission).  His failure to do so lead him to make a number of poor decisions that resulted in the ire of his Board of Directors and others.1

There is a simple lesson here.  Don’t get enough rest and the outcome will be failure.


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Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

16 thoughts on “Getting Rest is Important for a Leader

  1. Max Foster

    Opiate drugs have recently taken an additional toll on the human mind and body. Many actually use these drugs to stimulate themselves as a method of overcoming not getting enough rest. Of course, any time we interject an artificial stimulus into our bodies in order to overcome an inborn limitation (we can only go on so long without sleep) the results are often unpredictable but usually very bad.

  2. Dennis Mathes

    Leaders should take some time to really lay out what their own priorities in life are. Once done, things become pretty simple. When we spend too much time and effort (and thus lack of sleep) on low-priority behavior, then we are overworked and this can easily become a bad habit.

    1. Bryan Lee

      Bad habits die hard. Consistently not getting enough sleep is common especially among teenagers.

  3. Nick Lighthouse

    There are a few things that leaders must consistently do to take care of themselves and this is clearly one of them. If you fail to get enough rest (as well as eat well and exercise), your body can only take so much abuse and it will fail you. Believe me, I’ve been there and suffered the consequences physically and psychologically but also by being fired from my job when I made bad judgment calls.

    1. Albert Ayer

      Good comment, Nick. I made the same mistake and too got fired.

    2. Kenny Foster

      Thought I could party hard and still put in a good day’s work. Didn’t work out like I thought and I was demoted at work for failing to provide exceptional customer service that was demanded of me. It was from a simple lack of sleep.

  4. Danny Burkholder

    Many leaders have gone down for their lack of sleep. For those like me who are US Civil War buffs, there are often stories we read about how some of the general officers fell asleep at a critical time and their men we were beaten because they lacked the needed strategic leadership at a crucial point. The idea here is that leaders must take care of themselves and be aware if their boss is also getting the appropriate rest.

  5. Anita

    Yep, made this mistake more often than I would like to admit.

  6. Gil Johnson

    I found that the harder I worked, the more things I wanted to party with my friends and go hiking in the tundra. But what the lack of rest was doing to me I could not recognize until I fell exhausted and couldn’t make good decisions. Thanks for a great article on this important and often overlooked topic.

    1. Jerome Smith

      I know what you mean. When we are young, we think we are invincible and can do anything. Well, the body says “no.” Good comment.

  7. Willie Shrumburger

    It’s too easy as a young person to make this mistake because the human body is very resilient. What it does mentally however is something we often don’t see until it’s too late.

  8. Doug Smith

    Funny thing is that I made this mistake often as a young man.

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