The greatest asset an organization has is its leaders and followers. Human talent and energy are crucial aspects of any organization and society. The creative force of technology and the rise in architectural creations, for instance points to the inspired mind of a human being. The unfortunate reality is that many organizations, especially those that lead them lack an appreciation of rest and renewal. The ideas, thoughts, philosophy and values held by key people within the organization are the assured future for tomorrow’s institutions. What then happens when an organization’s members stop seeking opportunities for renewal to gain new perspectives? The organization and the individual will experience stagnation, apathy and disillusionment (O’Neil, 2003). Ultimately, it would be the people served or the services rendered that will suffer. Therefore, it is imperative that leaders and organizations establish and sustain a commitment to renewal, quality renewal programs and rest initiatives to ensure that the members of their organization are able to remain the best asset to their organizations.
Research has shown that the typical American adult gets 6.9 hours of sleep per night and decreasing steadily (Stickgold et al, 2007). Furthermore, rest physiologically is essential for the human body to fight infections and maintain balance. In some research it was shown that our brain continues to work on complex problems that have given us great anxiety throughout the day even while the body is asleep (Stickgold et al., 2007). Unfortunately, for many leaders there is a tendency to run the human body as if it were robotic machinery. A popular assumption is that the less sleep that is had, the more efficient daily functions become. However, at a point, our lack of care for our bodies will give way to burnout.
Burnout is a psychological term for the experience of long-term exhaustion and diminished interest (Wikipedia, 2011).
According to the research performed by Psychologists Herbert Freudenberger and Gail North burnout can be divided into 12 stages. 5 of those are:
1. Revision of values-faith, family and friends become less important as the individual spirals into depression.
2. Inner emptiness-a feeling of worthlessness and lack of fulfilled purpose becomes the precedence.
3. Depersonalization-life becomes a list of tasks and relationships that once provided joy and refreshment become an obligation
4. Withdrawal-isolation becomes the chosen past time
5. Compulsion to prove oneself-as a result of an inner emptiness, one might experience a need to ensure their relevance within a given organization by working beyond what is required.
Burnout not only affects the physiological functions of the human body, but also the perceived self-worth of the individual. Therefore, it is safe to assume that the need for rest transcends more than the physical inactivity of the body, but also of the mind.
RENEWAL and GOD
At a rested state, the human mind is capable of producing creative and innovative inventions. Freudenberger and North’s stages of burnout indicate that rest is much more than a good night’s sleep. Rest hinges upon the intrinsic motivation of a leader. At the core of all human beings are the values that inspire the sustainability and longevity of any given organization. Additionally, the spiritual connection to God needed by every human being, particularly leaders in sensitive positions is strengthened when renewal is experienced.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29, NIV).
Christ encourages an exchange of his ‘yoke’–a renewal for the burdens of our souls. A discovery is made in the preceding verses that there is an understanding that life can create turmoil for the soul. The soul is a reference to the seat of human thoughts and emotions; the center for every creative idea and innovation (Robbins, 1996). Therefore, Christ offers to the leader the opportunity to drop negative, harmful and distracting thoughts before it inadvertently leads to unproductive results.
PRACTICING GODLY RENWAL
The above five stages of burnout are latent, but overt signs of a leader and/or follower who have ignored the practice of continual renewal. Clearly the ripple effects are not felt solely by the individual, but by those surrounding the leader. The Apostle Paul in the Bible provides further reinforcements for the need for renewal for godly leaders especially by suggesting that our physical bodies are not ours to control. We have a special obligation to take care of what has been entrusted into our care by God. As a result, the active practice of renewal is a conscious recognition of a leader who desires to maintain communication with the One who has granted access to utilize the body.
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, NIV).
We can therefore deduce that when a godly leader conscientiously renews, they are recognizing that their inspiration is a direct correlation to their relationship with God. It further redirects their perspective to view the activity of daily life through Christ like lenses. It is within quiet moments leaders receive inspiration and encouragement.
STEPS TO RENEWAL
Recognize first that renewal is a choice. Actively choosing to develop habits that will lead to healthy lifestyle patterns that are reflective and indicative of a desire to communicate with God and become more responsible stewards of what has been so graciously entrusted into our care.
Since renewal is an intentional activity, it is important to set out a dedicated period of time on a daily basis for renewal. The actual activity, (sleeping, exercising, reading a book etc.) is a personal choice. During this time of renewal, practical steps such as turning off all technology should be taken in order to protect this precious time.
In an organization where I worked, every afternoon (weather permitting) a walk is taken by the leaders and followers of the organization. Organization’s that encourage renewal programs ensure that leaders are accountable to the renewal process. Therefore, as part of its culture, an organization should have programs such as counseling and exercise enrichment that would fit into design of the organization.
It is possible that despite the previous steps, burnout may occur. However, before it becomes extremely detrimental to the leader or followers, it is important that attention be paid to the warning signs. One way to do so is immediately following achieved deadlines, a leader should automatically take a period of time to refresh and renew before returning to work. It should be automatic and planned in order to avoid procrastinating or diluting the importance for the rest.
Perhaps countries in Europe, South America and parts of Africa have developed the right attitude to renewal. Every day, at different designated hours rest is taken. Business is halted to allow opportunities for people to re-connect with family and rest. The need for rest is more apparent, especially within assignment driven societies such as the United States. This paper attempts to provide clear signals of when a leader especially is in danger of losing that specialness of innovation that will benefit their organization due to lack of renewal. Moreover renewal for the godly leader means an increased ability to communicate and download insight from God, which could ensure the longevity of the organization.
Amblessed is a Doctoral candidate at Regent University. Her passion and interest is in next generation leadership. She presently resides in Maryland with her husband.