Why Leaders Can Take Vacations, Even Us Americans

Kathy Rapp Culture, Kathy Rapp, Leadership, Performance, Retention, Travel, Vacation, Work Life Balance

It’s August. Europe is on holiday. I’m just back from a week+ vacation myself. While away, I came across this article explaining why Europeans are better at taking vacations than Americans.  This should not be news to anyone. In fact, I’d say most everyone is better at taking time off than those of us in the states.

The article talks about lack of job security, stronger unions and our messed up cultural norms about working being the primary reasons we suck at relaxing.

While there are elements of truth to those examples, I’d pin it back on being a leader. Leadership is why I can take more than a few days off and not freak out. Here’s why:

My team: A leader hires a kick-ass team, demonstrates productive behavior and then gives the authority to make decisions. My team gets stuff done, with or without me. That doesn’t make me insecure; it makes me a genius.

My perspective:  I know what has to get done while I’m away, and I know how to ask others to do it. I work hard before I leave, I set clear expectations and then I trust others to do what they say they’ll do. As a leader, I have to get out of the way every now and then. Give people space to deliver. I also have to give people space to fail and be ok with the results.

My choice: Although I’ve never lived in Europe, I honestly don’t think I’d work or vacation differently than I already do. I like clearing out email. I am at peace when I don’t see a red circled number next to my mail app. My husband has over 600 unread (mainly junk) emails and could care less. I, on the other hand, get anxious just looking at that number on his phone! It’s my choice. It’s my way of relaxing. It doesn’t mean I’m spending hours on vacation dealing with work (see points above), but it does mean I’m reducing self-imposed stress by simply deleting crap a couple of times a day.

Lastly, a leader has to have a sense of humor to enjoy time away. Otherwise the 4-hour delay (thanks United) with a 3-year old could cause me to never want to take a vacation in the first place!

Clark Griswold:  There’s Buckingham Palace, kids.  hat’s where the Queen lives and works.

Audrey Griswold: Works? What does she do, Dad?

Clark Griswold:  She queens… and vacuums.