When asked the question, “what is the most valuable commodity?”, some will say time. Some will say money, and there will be the occasional off the wall answer that takes others by surprise. My answer to the question of value has, for many years, been time.
As I have entered my late 20s and early 30s, I’ve started to realize that time is more valuable (and definitely more fleeting) than money. One is not able to multiply or duplicate time. One is not able to start from the beginning and make up for lost time.
As a leader, I have believed that the most important thing I can provide to those I’m leading is my time. As a result of this belief, I have often found myself trying to be everywhere all the time, running from meeting to meeting for what seems like endless hours, making strategic appearances at events (even if it was on my Sabbath), and being available by phone or email until the wee hours of the morning. In short, I have found myself too busy. To put it more bluntly, I have found myself inspiration-less, wisdom-less, peace-less, and burnt out. Even though I have felt this way for quite sometime, I would choose to press on and ignore my exhaustion because good leaders “give their time” “work tirelessly” etc.
This belief was recently challenged when I attended an amazing leadership conference (check out the 2013 Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit). One of the keynote speakers made a statement that challenged me to my core. “A leader’s most valuable commodity is not his or her time, but his or her energy.”
Whaaat? Energy? What’s that? I felt slightly scolded, slightly challenged, and slightly saddened. After the initial shock wore off, I started to consider the truth of what the speaker said. As I began to analyze the situation, I realized that I was giving others a lot of time but not a lot of energy. I had an overwhelming sense of failure as a leader and a deep conviction that I was not being responsible with the people that God has entrusted to me. The problem is, when I focus on tirelessly giving my time, I am relying on the logistics of leadership to affect change (“if I am at a coffee meeting for 2 hours then go to a gathering for 3 hours then answer emails until 2 am, people will know that I care”). How silly of me to assume that affecting change as a leader is purely logistical.
While I love the logistics of leadership, perfect logistical execution largely depends on me. Anytime a leadership victory depends mostly on me, something is amiss. When I consider the relational side of leadership, I have to admit that excellence requires more than time. Excellence requires energy, the ability to connect with others, and the emotional margin to be there for others. While I can create connections naturally, I know full well that in order to affect change as a leader, my energies have to be God-inspired. If I want to be a great leader, I have to follow the example set before me. In the gospels, time and again we see Jesus getting away from the crowd, resting, spending time with his Heavenly Father and with those on earth that were closest to him. It seems to me that Jesus understood that if his energy was zapped, he would be a less effective leader. I can attend 17 events/meetings and answer 80 emails in one week, but if I can’t be “on my game” in those meetings, if I can’t show my true concern and compassion for those I’m leading, then my time is meaningless (and may prove to be detrimental in some cases).
I think that as leaders, it’s important for us to understand that our energy is our greatest commodity. This might mean that we have to learn to say “No,” have to turn the computer off, or have to run the risk of looking bad for opting out of certain activities. We must consider the example of Jesus, and we must realize that when we value our energy above our time, not only do we have more to give, but those that have been entrusted to us experience authentic, Christ-like leadership that has the power to change lives for the best.