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How Working Less Makes You a Better Leader

How Working Less Makes You a Better Leader

It’s January and you know what that means!

New goals. New commitments. New possibilities.

A new year always comes with a vow, a promise, to work harder than ever before so you can see result like never before!

Work long. Work hard. Work better.

Getting things done is certainly the secret to being a better leader in 2021! Right?

Maybe not…

What if we have it all wrong? What if the vow to work harder is actually the very thing that is keeping us from being a better leader?

I think for most of my career I have believed, falsely, that if I can just out work everyone and set a standard for productivity, it will translate into being a better leader.

This principle drives a lot of leaders – either overtly or subconsciously.

We convince ourselves that by winning the war at work all the other wars for your time and attention will naturally fall into place. Our work win is everyone’s win, right?!

Yet, in the process of ‘winning’ the hard-work game we end up forsaking other things that really matter (also and more) like our marriage, health, and kids.

Although I have not unlocked all of the secrets to this principle, I am becoming increasingly convinced that the key to being a better leader might actually be working less.

Here are four ways that working less makes you a better leader:

When you work less, you are forced to delegate tasks and goals to other team members who may be more gifted / equipped to get the team win. When you shoulder too much for the team it does not encourage others around you to use their gifts and might even suggest you don’t really trust the gifting and potential contributions of your team’s members.

When you work less, it says to your colleagues and family that other things matter too and maybe more. It gives you more space to set your priorities straight and spend time on things that have more value. It gives you space to show up when your family needs you.

When you work less, you will rest more and more deeply and have better clarity. A tired and poorly fueled mind and body will make it very difficult to lead and make decisions with any clarity. Working less will create more margin for self-care and could actually lead to you being more productive as you lead with a clearer sense of purpose.

When you work less, you establish healthy boundaries and work environments for those who follow you. Working hard for the sake of working hard can be viewed from the outside as judgement on those around you who likely have more balanced lives. Pace of work is often idolized, when it is likely a mark of unhealth. But those who follow you might see your unhealth as a standard of proficiency in the organization. If they don’t do what you do then they can never be successful. It is trickle-down economics at its worst.

These are lessons I am still trying to learn. I will likely come back later and write on each of these four ways with deeper understanding. But, for today, let’s commit to these three things: Work less. Empower others. Lead better.

Chris Lawson

Founder of, husband to Merri, father to Adam, Ellie, and Zachary, and executive pastor @reynoldachurch. Lives to make Jesus famous. He enjoys watching the Atlanta Braves and UNC basketball, as well as demeaning and insulting whatever sports teams you root for. He knows a disturbing amount about television and movies.

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