On President’s Day: Should President’s Play?

Yesterday Air Force One arrived in our city. President Obama is spending President’s Day weekend in Palm Springs enjoying some down time. In fact, his recurring visits to Palm Springs have earned it the title of Camp David West.

Shortly after his arrival, local media snapped a photo of the President on a local golf course and posted the picture on Facebook. Since he usually fits in a round of golf while here, this is not surprising. However, the comments on Facebook (I know, it’s never a good idea to read these!), revealed that many citizens are very critical of our leader taking some down time.

Regardless of your opinion about this specific situation, Obama’s golf game reminds us of decisions that we each must make regarding our priorities. Socrates reminded us that good leaders must ‘know thyself’. How well do you know yourself in each of these three areas related to your priorities?

  1. Do you ‘live to work’ or ‘work to live’? While I was consulting in the Baltic region a local employee told me that ‘we work to live’ so don’t expect our workdays to extend much beyond 5:00. This principle held true during my time there and I found myself enjoying unexpected free time. Ironically, many of these evening were spent over long dinners with my contacts and I found that this ‘down-time’ helped facilitate many of our consult goals in unconventional and effective ways. Do you ‘live to work’ or ‘work to live’?
  2. Does your work define you? A local businessman recently noted that North American’s tend to look to work to meet most of their need for life satisfaction. This helps explain why it is so difficult for many of us to leave work at the office. You have a very important choice in what you allow to define you. Can you articulate what this is?
  3. How do you recharge? No matter who you are, you need time to recharge. There is no magic formula and you have to find what works for you. It can range from walks to stretches to lunchtime workouts to power naps. I believe that recharging seldom occurs without intentionality. How do you plan to recharge?

While it is important to know yourself, you must also know your team.  Chris may actually be more productive at work if you let her leave at 4:00 to coach the little league team. Conversely, you have team members who thrive on working longer hours and will enjoy a challenging project.

You also need to intentionally manage these differences within your team so conflict does not erupt. A high-ranking bank employee recently confided that, “it’s hard to balance my work and personal life because I am surrounded by staff who are willing to work far more hours than I am able to in order to get ahead”. This individual is highly competent and ability is not the issue. Rather, differences of priority between himself and his team are causing angst. This reveals that his organization is not clearly communicating work expectations.

For me, golf clears my head. It gives me time to think and recharge. I suspect our President is the same and trust that his weekend provides him a chance to re-energize. After all, he has a work week ahead of him that few of us will ever have to worry about.

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Head ShotJeff Suderman is a futurist, professor and consultant who works in the field of organizational development. He works with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational Future-Readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman