4 Caution Lights On Your Leadership Journey

Zig Ziglar’s “wheel of life” is often referred to by leadership coaches, like Chris Locurto, because it represents a good visual of the competing interests in each of our lives.


The thought goes, when the areas of life are held in good balance, the ride is much smoother. When one area of life is off-balance, we experience a flat tire.

Although it is safe to say that none of us has a perfectly balanced life, I almost made a fatal assumption in my early years of school leadership by thinking if I worked harder, I would accomplish more.

I believed managing the needs of students, teachers, staff, parents, etc. required every second of school as well as hours before and after. As a result, I consistently worked through lunches or skipped dinners to keep up with the demands.

Eventually, this pace led to burn-out. And a leader who burns out is a miserable leader…and eventually so are those around him or her.

Do you often feel driven to work harder and harder to reach your goals? Here are some caution-lights I try to keep in mind on my journey:

1. Recognize the The Danger-Signs of Workaholism
As I discovered the havoc over-work was creating in my life, my wife told me one day, “The kids and I have resigned ourselves to having a weekend husband and father. And even then, you are pretty much a shell of the man you were before.”

This was a wake-up call for me to revisit my priorities. Did I want to grow older and find myself with a successful career only to find my wife and children no longer knew me? As I worked harder and harder at my school, I was growing weaker in other areas of my life. I decided to focus my energies on each area of my life, not just work.

2. Pay Attention to the Sign Posts of Good Health
Sometimes we think we don’t have time for healthier habits. But when I committed to using my early mornings hours for exercise, reading and spiritual growth, this became a time to recharge my mental batteries and refill my soul.

During the work day, I started making myself stop for at least thirty minutes to eat lunch away from my desk or other to-do’s, ideally with members of our leadership team just to chat or talk about our day.

With the accountability of a colleague at school, I set a reasonable time to leave school each day. Or if I had to stay for an evening event, I found something to do not related to work in the time between.

I prioritized time with my family, even squeezing in mealtimes between games or activities with no phone or electronic devices allowed to interrupt it.

All of these small steps began to add much more meaning to my day, more time with my family, and a better attitude about working.

3. Personal Growth and Leadership Growth are not Separate Paths
When you begin to prioritize the other important areas of life, ironically, you will find you are more effective in your performance at school.

When I invest in my personal growth as well as family time, I find I am more creative and optimistic at work. I found myself enjoying my colleagues more because of scheduled down-times around lunches.

For instance, when our leadership team meets regularly around lunch, we inevitably talk more deeply or laugh more often. As a result, cooperative goal-setting and action planning became more realistic when we take time to connect, not just react to the needs around us.

4. Rely on the Guidance of Your Personal Compass
For me, my faith encourages me that if my greatest satisfaction is found in God, I also find my greatest satisfaction in life. This reminds me to keep the “hub” of my wheel of life centered correctly.

Keep your personal compass tuned to “true north” and the journey is much easier to navigate.

I still have days that wipe me out and seasons where life feels very unbalanced. But I have found my satisfaction with my work is intricately tied to my satisfaction in the other important areas of my life.

If like me, you find yourself overwhelmed, take time to focus on the more meaningful parts of your life. You will be surprised how it encourages a more satisfying life as well as a more satisfying leadership journey.

Now It’s Your Turn: What are some ways you have learned to balance work and down-time? What practical steps can you take immediately to keep from burning out in your current position? Share with the rest of us!

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William D. Parker
William D. Parker