Leadership Lessons from Illness

8 Leadership Lessons I Learned From Being Sick

By Brian Dodd

Rarely do I ever get sick enough to be shut down.  I don’t have time to get sick.  You probably don’t either.  I mean there are people to see and things to do, right?  I usually get a change-of-seasons cold or sinus infection but you just need to power through that.  ”Don’t call in.  Crawl in”, a former boss used to tell me.

This past Friday I felt something coming over me, but as has been my custom, I was just going to “power through it.”  By 4:30 PM I couldn’t keep my head up at my desk.  Fortunately, I had hit my weekly goals so I shut it down.  However, by 8:30 PM I had become physically ill.  The flu had officially set it.

The next 24 hours featured debilitating physical illness followed by 24 more hours of painful recovery.  You’ve probably had the flu so you know the process.

This past weekend taught me the following 8 Leadership Lessons I Learned From Being Sick:

  1. Leaders Should Be Grateful – I was sick, very sick.  However, there are many people who are far more sick than I was.  There are those experiencing far more pain and agony.  My flu would eventually pass.  Some people’s physical ailments will not.  I have a lot to be grateful for and so do you.
  2. What Leaders Do In Moderation Their Teams Do In Excess – Prior to my getting sick, my wife had a bad cold.  I spent some time taking care of her.  Taking care of her if you consider “Honey, can you put the towels in the dryer”, “Can you run to the shop”, and “Can you turn the volume down?” taking care of someone.  But obviously what she had in moderation I would catch in excess.  Leadership is exactly the same way.
  3. Leaders Need Rest – Once I got sick, I was just praying I could sleep through it.  Sometimes we can become better leaders simply by getting the appropriate amount of rest.
  4. Leaders Need Recovery Time – It has been 96 hours since Friday evening and I am only operating at about 70% efficiency.  I still have not fully recovered.  When leaders face challenging times, they must factor in the recovery time which will be required on the backend.
  5. Being Down Causes Leaders To Miss Things – On Saturday evening, the Indianapolis Colts trailed the Kansas City Chiefs 31-10 at halftime.  I told my wife, “unless a miracle happens this game is over.  I’m going back to bed until the 49ers game at 8  o’clock.”  At 8:00 PM EST I got out of bed, turned on the television and missed the 2nd greatest comeback in NFL history.  Being down causes leaders to miss things.
  6. Leaders Need Great People Around Them – During my illness, my wife was absolutely spectacular.  As leaders, we will all reach a place that is beyond our competencies, skills and abilities.  Leaders need talented people around them to accomplish what God has called them to do.
  7. Leaders Need Their Family – On Monday afternoon my quarantine from my daughter had concluded.  I was never so happy as when she walked in to my office just to say “Hello” since she hasn’t been able to see me for a few days.
  8. Leaders Need God – I’m just going to tell it like it is.  When you are in the bathroom so violently sick that your ribs are still soar three days later, you are reduced to crying out to God for help.  Recently, God has placed me in a variety of situations where I realize my absolute futility without Him.  This was a another example of my need for absolute surrender to His purposes in my life.

I don’t like being sick.  No one does.  But it did remind me of what was really important.  What lessons have you taken from being sick?


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