[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.