Why Play Is Critical to Leaders

September is back-to-school and back-to-routine month. Some of us are grateful for the fun, relaxing summer we just had. We are refreshed and ready to tackle new projects at work.

Others might think, “Where did the summer go? I am exhausted, and I just don’t have any energy for work right now. I don’t even want to get out of bed most mornings!”

If you fall into the latter group, you may resent the job that once brought you so much fulfillment. You may even start to look for a new job. But that’s probably not the answer. Your dissatisfaction with work probably has a lot to do with what you’re doing – or not doing – outside of work.

Let me ask: Do you play? Do you make time for pleasurable activities in your life on a regular basis?


If you don’t, that’s likely why you are so unhappy. One of the best ways to show up as an effective leader is to take care of yourself. It is very true that you cannot take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself.

How can you incorporate play and joy into your weekly schedule?

Start by making a list of the things you love to do. Maybe one of the things you love the most about summer is reconnecting with friends. Can you set up lunch each week with a friend? If you enjoy traveling and getting away, what about planning a day trip on the weekend?

When life gets crazy, we stop playing. We stop going to yoga class or cooking from scratch. We ignore the guitar sitting in the corner and the garden we so lovingly planted in the spring. I know so many people who deny themselves these pleasures. It’s so important to create the life we want today – not tomorrow. The most content people are the ones who prioritize play.

Take the challenge: Make September the month you increase the amount of play in your life. What do you want to do more of that makes you content? Schedule it – and do it!