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« April Educational Leadership column | Main | BFTP: Checking hoaxes »
Monday
Apr012013

Good leaders take vacations

The graveyards are full of indispensable men. Charles De Gaulle 

I will not be governed by the tyranny of immediacy. - Mary Anne Radmacher

I'm heading off for SE Asia tomorrow. I'll be speaking at one of my very favorite events, the NESA Spring Educator's Conference in Bangkok, and then head to Laos for a few days of sightseeing. And I am going guilt-free.

I encounter quite a number of school administrators who do not take their allotted days off. In fact some even brag about it. While I don't know of any studies that would back this up, my sense is that they are doing both themselves and their institutions a disservice by not getting away as much as they can.

Time away from work should be a means of gaining perspective - about one's job, about one's society, about one's life. Travel, especially international travel, has always made me more appreciative of my own country - especially when politics make one easily cynical. Visiting other schools or hearing from other educators has always made me more appreciate of my own district - or given me ideas for change. Even when travel is not involved, days away from work are a good time to do a little introspection. Am I defined primarily by job or am I a person outside of work as well? Do I have friends? Can my family stand to be around me? Do I have activities that keep me occupied - physically, mentally, and spiritually - when work does not? Anyone facing either retirement or a pink slip ought to be asking these questions very seriously - and practice not having a job a few times a year.

One's place of work is also weakened when "the boss" doesn't take time off. One of the ironies of being a good parent and of being a good teacher has always been that the more effective you are, the less your children and your students need you. That's also true of being a good supervisor or leader. If you have empowered your team, you do not need to carry your phone to the beach or into the mountains or to your favorite fishing spot. Good supervisors give those in the department practice in making good decisions and in being held accountable for those decisions. When the day comes, and it will come for everyone, that the district needs to get along without us, good leaders know that the culture, the vision, the practices they have built will continue if those things have been collaboratively created and consistently practiced. And that one can truly "take time off" and escape what Radmacher in the quote above calls "the tyranny of immediacy" - the need to be on call 24/7.

Pure rationalization? Public display of senility? Maybe. But I am packing my rolly-bag tonight anyway. See ya in Thailand.

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Reader Comments (7)

Thanks for this timely post Doug. My wife just surprised me with a birthday trip to Key West next weekend. My initial reaction was "Oh great. That's 3 days away from work." I'm an elementary school principal and I worried about all that could go wrong while I was away. We talked it through and she made some great points about recharging the batteries for the end of the school year. Plus, while my teachers are away from school in the summer, I'll be there most of the time as I have a 12 month contract. Your post has firmly convinced me now to relax and enjoy this short trip.

April 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCurt Rees

Hi Curt,

Enjoy your time off. There is an old saying that no one ever wrote on his gravestone "I wish I has spent more time at work."

Doug

April 2, 2013 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

I just, last Wednesday, returned from 6 weeks in SE Asia, and am yet enjoying the misty fog of let lag! Have a great trip!

I kept a fairly pithy blog as I wandered through Singapore, Burma, Bali, Tioman (off the coast of Malaysia), and, finally, home via Bankok, at techtrek2013.blogspot.com, if you like.

I left my "nice" camera in Kuala Lumpur, and took only my iPad mini (what iPad should always have been!) on the bulk of travels, and, though I worried that I would regret the trade-off of quality pictures for convenience, I need not have! Even traveling at 60 kph and sticking the iPad out the window for a quick shot on bumpy roads from Mandalay to Ubud, the pictures were, overall, just great! Go Apple!

Safe travels - but not so safe that you miss the real fun! : )

April 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSandy Lucas

Doug - you are so right - and remind me once again of the importance of a break!

Have a great trip.

April 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMary

The beaches in Thailand are the best in the world, if you ask me. Just like Talcum powder. Have a wonderful break and rest.

April 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterVivian

Hi Sandy,

Sounds like the trip of a life-time. I've been using the camera in my iPhone for all my travels and have not regretted the decision. But I have yet to drop it in a lake or ocean as I have done with other cameras!

I look forward to reading your blog!

Doug

Hi Mary,

I am sure Ireland looks forward to your visits! I know you like to travel too. Thanks for the note.

Doug

Hi Vivian,

I will second your opinion on southern Thailand. Only been to Phuket, but I really have enjoyed the three trips I've taken there.

Thanks for the comment,

Doug

April 4, 2013 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

Great quotes!

April 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNathan Mielke

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