Almost six months have now passed since I took a significant break away from work. I went on a sabbatical to travel the world. It was a magical experiment to learn how to "let go," something I hadn't allowed much in my very well planned career. It was a time of reflection and prioritizing values, while having the time of my life!
Now I am back to a demanding job and life's routine. It is certainly more difficult to be always in "awe" and "one with the world" when you are not at a yoga retreat. However, for the most part I've been able to hold on to the bliss experienced during my break. Life is much more pleasant post trip. But beyond my own wellbeing, going on a sabbatical has also had a positive impact on the people I work with and interact with every day. Despite the perception that taking a break is a detriment to your career, it is proving to be the best step I've taken towards becoming a better leader. Here are five reasons why:
One returns energized and rejuvenated. Removing yourself from the fixed adrenaline from your job is a healthy thing to do. Changing your environment, your routine, and disconnecting from the sources of stress will have a positive mental and physical impact on you. Just compare how much happier and better you look when you come back to work on a Monday after having rested and slept well on the weekend vs. when you didn't rest at all. Now imagine the positive effects of a nice extended break. When you return, you, your business and your family will get the best of you again. A fresher, newer you.
One develops a new perspective. Going on a break, and especially if you travel and visit other cultures, will put business and life matters into perspective. Less fixed plans and concepts about life. You will be surprised upon your return that you don't take everything so seriously anymore. You learn that timelines are timelines, a set date subject to change, nothing more. Business is business, a for-profit activity, not your life. People are people, human beings that deserve to be treated with utmost care and respect, not a means to an end. I now have a broader spectrum vs. the internally focused myopic view you develop when you have been thinking and doing the same for too long. This new perspective helps me make better decisions as a leader.
It allows new leaders to emerge. Whether you work for a company or are self employed, you will likely need to delegate your responsibilities while you are on break. If you do this well, members of your team will rise to the occasion and get things going. In my case more junior managers took some of my responsibilities which allowed them to grow and emerge as stronger leaders in the organization. That is a great thing to enable and ultimately what a leader strives for- finding leadership and development opportunities for your people. You will likely come back to a stronger team.
One becomes more comfortable delegating. As a leader one of the skills to master is when to delegate, get involved, or get out of the way for your team to lead. After the break, you remember that things worked even when you went away. You trust your team more as well, thus become less controlling and comfortable delegating and only get involved where you can truly make a difference. You will operate with more self awareness and probably at a higher experience level than when you left, which people you work with will really appreciate.
It inspires others. Taking a break and returning back successfully makes others realize that it can be done. Sharing your reflections about your experience and how profoundly even a short break away has changed you will show them how fruitful it can be for them as well. This in turn sends a strong message that people's wellbeing matters, making others more comfortable discussing their life and career concerns with you as well. Leaders inspire not only people's mind but also their hearts.
This is how taking a break to re-set has infused new positive energy into all my endeavors and is shaping me into a better leader. I recommend it to anybody committed to their leadership development journey. Ultimately this is what leaders do: always look for ways to better themselves for the people they lead and to generate better results and broader impact. Just know that all this doesn't have to be done sitting at your desk.