Leadership and Main

Bettering Others and the World You Live In

Restless Nights

restless nights

Restless nights come with the territory of leadership.  Restlessness can be set in motion from projects, tasks, and people consuming one’s mind.  Leadership minds are constantly burdened, always running in the direction towards problems and potential solutions.

One of the greatest struggles of a leader is to find quality rest.  Theoretically this rest should come at night when the world slows down.  Maybe you can relate, but for me the challenge is when the world slows down, my mind picks up the pace.  It creates the space and place for all that was done, is being done, and what is to be done to awaken in my mind.

Once my mind surrenders to sleep, all it takes is the slightest toss and turn to open up the opportunity to reignite it.  There is also that dreaded moment when I’m wide awake well before the alarm clock is set to go off, with zero ability to shut the flood gates of thought off.   

Ebenezer Scrooge

As I was thinking through this concept, something extremely random came to mind…the movie A Christmas Carol and its main character Ebenezer Scrooge.  Totally not the season for Christmas, but extremely relevant to the concept of restless nights.  In his dreams, Ebenezer was visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Future. 

The Ghosts tormented Ebenezer’s mind at night…leading to restless nights.  As leaders, the past, present, and future can torment our minds at night…leading to restless nights.  So, what are the uninvited gifts that each Ghost of Leadership brings us at night?  Here are the three of them:

Ghost of Leadership Past – Failure

Past failures can lead to restless nights.  There are two types of people in this world.  Those that have failed, and those that are about to!  Failure comes with the process of growth; it is absolutely unavoidable.

Our past failures can weigh heavy on us at night.  As we close our eyes to go to sleep, they haunt us.  It can seem like a highlight reel playing on repeat of all the things that have set us back.

When our minds are consumed with past failure, we can easily get Stuck looking in the rear-view mirror.  The only Vantage Point that deserves our mind’s energy are those things we can see through the windshield.    
As long as we are “failing forward,” we are making progress towards the leader we desire to be.  Here is the thing with failure, it is never fatal, it is never final.  Denis Waitley said it like this, “Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end.” 

Ghost of Leadership Present – Burdens

Burdens lead to restless nights in the life of a leader.  Leadership comes with a cost.  That cost is a busy and burdened mind.  Those burdens come in the form of two things: tasks and people. 

Tasks produce deadlines.  Deadlines produce stress.  Stress keeps a leader up at night.  Tasks situationally burden our minds but can eventually be checked off the list. 

People constantly burden a leader’s mind.  They are constantly burdened with the well-being of those they are entrusted to lead.  They love and care for their people.

I often write about the impact of the pandemic, supply chain issues, and labor shortages that this generation of leaders has faced.  It has been challenging, exhaustive, busy, chaotic, stressful, and uncertain. 

Those that led effectively through this season effectively prioritize people over tasks.  They sacrificed many sleepless nights burdened by people.

Ghost of Leadership Future – Worry

Worrying too much about the potential for what the future holds can lead to restless nights.  If you think about it, it is uncertainty that generates worry.  Past failures and the present burdens are known.  No matter how well we plan and prepare, there is always uncertainty in the future.    

I often wonder if I could go back in time and write down everything I was worried about in the future, how many of those things actually happened.  My assumption is…little to none.  Yet, I have spent an inordinate amount of my life in a state of worry.

William Shakespeare once said, “Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow.”  Those are extremely wise words.  Too often, worry makes the future scarier than it needs to be.  It places giants in our path that don’t exist. 

The future is intended to be hopeful.  Worry is simply unproductive.  It only generates fear. Fear can leave us in a state of paralysis.  Jack Canfield said, “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” So true.


What do we do with these gifts that the Ghosts of Leadership leave us?  When we lay our heads down at night, how do we rest better?  Honestly…I wish I knew.  Maybe restless nights are just part of the gig of being a leader? 

I would offer these three thoughts.  One, our failures have shaped and molded us into the people we are today.  That is a good thing.  Two, being burdened with people means that we care.  There is nothing wrong with that.  Three, have a little faith in ourselves and our capabilities, worry a little less.  As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” 

When it is all said and done, we can simply rest in the comfort that we have tried our very best as leaders.  Any day in which we have bettered others and the world we live in is a good day.  Rest in that.

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