“The more important you are, the more you travel.” This may not be something we actually say out loud, but the example given by many important leaders (people we respect) can tell us that. We can start to think that if we are important and if we are a good leader it is natural for us to be “on the road” constantly. After all, we need to go and teach and speak, visit people, have lots of important meetings all over the place, attend conferences, lead gatherings, etc. A good leader is gone more than they are home, right?
No. Not right! Or certainly not always right.
|Snowy roads I got to drive on last night!|
As I write this, I am, yes...traveling. This time though, I'm traveling to be with my family at a time of need. Still, it's travel. I arrived in America last night right in the middle of a snow storm! This weekend, many Americans will travel to be home with their families for the festival we call "Thanksgiving." So, I'm thinking about travel and how much many leaders do it.
There are some big things we sacrifice when we travel a lot. Some of those costs are worth it. Others may be too great a price to pay. We often sacrifice quality time with our family. The more we are on the road and away, the less we are able to invest in our children and our marriages. Not only do they miss us, but our wife or husband has to pick up the extra work that comes their way when we are gone. This is okay sometimes, but when it happens too much, it can be difficult and lead to resentment against the person who is always gone.
Another big thing we sacrifice is our ability to develop local friendships and relationships. Over time this affects us in our personal lives and emotional health as well as in our ability to impact people around us in evangelism and discipleship. Soon, we begin to tell stories of people we led to Christ and disciple a very long time ago, because we simply aren’t home enough to make the kind of relationships needed to do this. We begin to be leaders who talk about something we don’t do very often ourselves. That is a big sacrifice! Maybe too big?
Another thing that too much travel does is it causes us to be less consistent in our routines, spiritual discipline habits, and in following through on what we have told people we would do. By the time we get back from one trip and start to settle in to our routines, we are off again! Sometimes this can cause us to spin in circles rather than making progress. We have meetings and make action steps then forget to do what we said.
When it comes to coaching and consistent mentoring, travel is a major issue that can decrease our influence and effectiveness. When I'm traveling, I have a hard time setting aside time to regularly pray for those I am mentoring or coaching, I fail to communicate well with them, long gaps in my contact with them can take place, etc. Im convinced that one of the greatest hindrances to effective coaching is when leaders travel too much.
A few years ago, my friend (and now our FM Intl Leader) Kevin Sutter told me he had a goal to cut his travel in half and double his influence. That was a great goal but I wondered how he would do it…if he could do it. He has! I’ve watched him be very intentional in limiting his travel in really significant ways, but be faithful to be in quality contact with those he leads. And his influence has grown.
Yes, its harder in our South Asian face to face culture. Yes, its true that a visit to someone in their location can mean the world to them. Yes, it is necessary that we attend many meetings that truly ARE important. I just wanted to write though and say that it isn’t true that the leader who travels most is most important. It isn’t true that the leader who chooses to stay home will be less effective and less influential. Sometimes the right choice is to stay home! Let’s give ourselves permission to do that.