There is a phrase from an article that has stayed with me for nearly twenty years. Back in the June 1999 issue of Fast Company magazine, William Taylor interviewed Harvard’s Ronald Heifetz in an article called “The Leader of the Future. In it, Taylor asked Heifetz the following question:
“How do leaders maintain the stamina, the energy, and the passion that they need to keep pushing ahead?”
Heifetz gave a brilliant answer when he shared the following:
“Leaders … need a sanctuary, a place where they can go to get back in touch with the worth of their life and the worth of their work. I'm not necessarily talking about a physical place or an extended sabbatical. I'm talking about practical sanctuaries -- daily moments that function as sanctuaries…. I'm not peddling any particular kind of sanctuary; we all have to find our own structures. Unfortunately, though, people who get swept up in fast-moving companies often treat their partners and their sanctuaries as expendable luxuries rather than as necessities…. But countless people think that they can exercise leadership without partners or without a sanctuary. To stay alive as leaders -- to tend the wounds that we inevitably receive when we raise tough questions -- requires maintaining these structures in our lives.”
I have pondered this insight for years and it is, in part, why I ask all my students who participate in the From Vision to Action Leadership Training to read this article.
After thinking about this insight for nearly two decades, I am more convinced than ever that great leaders have “daily moments that function as sanctuaries.” For example, over the years, I have listened to people share with me about the importance and value of their daily devotional readings. Some have talked to me about their weekly family dinners on Sunday evening. Others have shared with me the joy of their daily run. Some have even talked about the importance of getting out of the house at the end of the day and walking their dog.
Over time, I have come to the understanding that it is not as much what is the sanctuary, but that we have them and utilize them on a daily or at least regular basis.
In a world where instability is chronic, uncertainty is permanent, change is accelerating, and disruptions are common, having a daily sanctuary time or place is crucial. Our challenge this day and every day is to give ourselves permission to go there for rest and rejuvenation.
This week, find your sanctuary and then go there often.