The remedy for disconnected leadership

The disconnected leader runs on emptyThe remedy for disconnected leadership is finding a place to sit between two trees.

To avoid becoming a “disconnected leader,” a leader devoid of all emotion, running on empty, we need to find a place to recharge. We need to find a place to still time and a time to be still. Find a place to become truly disconnected and restore what being “connected” has taken out. Does your contract of employment (even if you employ yourself ) come with an emotional health warning? When you turn over the last page of the document it should read:


Leadership can suck you dry of all sensations.
Leadership can drain your resources of desire.
Leadership can leave your emotional reserves as empty as a butcher’s shop of turkeys on Christmas Eve!

I remember desperately wanting the latest addition to being an effective leader back at the turn of the century, a Nokia 3310. Work/life balance has shifted considerably since the demise of the legendary Nokia 3310. In those heady days of Autumn 2000 when Snake II, extra long SMS messages and a stop watch (really …!) proved irresistible for the alleged 126 million people who brought a handset. Mobile connectivity, and with it the pressure to be “connected” at all times, has influenced the work/life balance forever. For then, if we were so inclined, the decision each morning was more about which cover would we use that day to accessorise our phone. Now, as we rub the sleep from our eyes, we check our email, Twitter feed and Facebook profiles before our feet even touch the snuggly woolly insides of our “Micky Mouse” novelty slippers for the first time of the day.

Connectivity is going to increase substantially. The movement of “rapid mobile adoption” is still in the early stages, as Mary Meeker, “Queen of the Net,” wrote this week. Her “Internet Trends” report, one of the most waited for analysis of web trends, says that 1.1 Billion now have smart phones. This is not necessarily surprising. Strikingly more significant, perhaps, was that mobiles account for 13% of all Internet traffic and 24% of “black Friday” shopping in USA was done on a mobile!

What does all this mean? While the growth of this technology is of course exciting, life changing and even evolutionary, it is still “human” beings that will be connected to these revolutionary receivers. It leaves me asking a question, is always being that connected completely beneficial? One of the features of the phones of the future, though I have my doubts, could be an “off” switch. Leaders should regularly use this feature to avoid becoming a “disconnected leader.” There are times when being truly disconnected could be the most productive activity a leader undertakes.

An increased connected culture drives us to “working” longer hours; we are always connected, always answering emails, always available. Yes, of course, it brings with it amazing opportunities, greater flexibility and increased awareness of the world around us. Yet, at the same as being more “connected,” we can become more insular. At the same time as we experience being in community with hundreds of “friends,” we can feel notably more isolated. At the same as we respond to the people we lead at all times of the day and night through social media platforms, photo sharing sites, and the bane of life, email, it can leave us feeling “disconnected,” without the reserves of emotional intelligence and sensitivity to really deeply respond to the needs of the people we lead. We often can feel drained, depleted and empty, and then we become a “disconnected leader.” Leaders are crashing as they feel less in control of the finite resource of time.

A disconnected leader needs to have a puppy room to visit!Human beings have “givens” and one of those givens, is the need, just like the connected devices we carry, to recharge, refresh and internally restore what is taken out of us. My new iphone 5 needs recharging everyday, so do I, what about you? There is a growing body of evidence that studies the “givens” about being human. Psychologists are asking deep questions of how we approach the emotional problems of living in our modern connected world. The need to understand why progressively people are more likely to become depressed, anxious, addicted, burned out and off work with stress related factors. In an attempt to deal with the stress of finals week, a Canadian University has set up a “puppy room!” Morvan Crumlish, writes, “Stress happens when the life we want collides with the life we have, when the effort we make to convince ourselves that we can manage to balance, and juggle, and compromise, overwhelms our ability to do so.”

Being always “connected” amplifies the demands on us. In the wake of a depleted and “disconnected leader” are not only disappointed and confused staff, but families with mothers who struggle to face simple things like the school run and fathers who find playing football with their children a chore, say nothing of the chaotic consequences of many broken families. Being a leader can drain you. If you are giving out, encouraging, developing, praising, giving feedback day in and out, it takes something from you. With the hours we can now be connected its more vital to find time to switch off and I here I don’t only mean our mobile devices. How do you do that?

A place to rechargeFor me, it’s having a dog and a place to sit between two trees. Most mornings there is a wet nose, swishing tail and excited expectation of a walk waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs. I have always been an early riser so no matter the weather, though sunny frosty mornings are my favourite, you can find my dog “Pippa” and I walking one and half miles out from the house where we live, along a country lane and across a field, then over a style to a place where I sit between two trees. We watch the changing seasons that remind us time is passing. It renews, revives, restores and recharges my soul. I look at the view. I think about my life. I give thanks for another day. My emotional dial moves towards full. The fifty minutes to an hour it takes there and back refreshes the parts that other activities can’t reach. There is something about a dog that can de-stress life. Having a dog could be the best tool to de-stress known to man!

What about you? How do you put back in what is taken out? For some it could be golf, a walk along a beach, playing a musical instrument, competitive sport or DIY. I know of one very successful leader who is part of a volunteering project that visits elderly people. For her, being a listening ear, a friendly face each week to a lonely pensioner has filled her internal reserves to overflowing. Being always connected creates a new future for all. But underneath that “brave new world” of connectivity is a human being who for centuries has not changed. We all need time to disconnect in some way. There is a serious possibility along with the surge in connectivity comes the threat of being a “disconnected leader.” There is a “given” core within us that needed to unplug, disconnect and sign off from the mobile device in our hand. How do you do that? Please write and let me know, I would love to hear from you.

Sources: Dial Image via stock.xchng all other images taken between two trees by Pete


Posted on by Peter Billingham in Blog Posts, Happiness, Leadership

About Peter Billingham

Leader, Learner, Speechwriter, Storyteller, Author. a.k.a. 'The Artful Speaker' Enjoy working on social action projects, Toastmasters, films & adventure travel.

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