Rest and recover to improve leadership performance

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Rest and recovery are critical components for athletic success, and it’s no different for business leaders. Just as athletes rest to repair themselves psychologically and physically, CEOs need to take time out of their businesses to drive further progress.

Elite sportsmen and women train with a purpose in mind – a race, match or event. They’re dedicated to their sport, training often and eating well. Athletes know the importance of rest to achieving the best performance – they don’t train right up until a few minutes before the action starts. They understand that it’s physically necessary to allow the muscles time to repair and rebuild, getting stronger in the process.


Business leaders strive to reach an end goal or objective with company values in mind. We have the weight of teams behind us, combined with the pressures of behaving like a leader. Unlike athletes, we don’t always realise the benefits of rest and its importance on making our businesses stronger and more agile.

Short vs longer-term recovery

Short-term or active recovery happens in the hours after a challenging workout or steady-state effort. It refers to the cooling off period post-exercise and the days following this. This is the time to foam roll, optimise protein intake, rehydrate and indulge in quality sleep.

Longer-term recovery is part of a wider training programme – over a season or set period. These schedules are changed-up regularly by coaches or personal trainers to get the best out of the athlete.

It’s key for business leaders to use both short and longer-term recovery techniques to recuperate mentally. Using active recovery methods, allowing time to unplug from devices, partaking in hobbies and arranging our days efficiently, rather than having meeting-filled ones all give the opportunity for reflection.

In the longer-term, planning time out the office – whether that’s regular work from home days, long weekends or proper holidays – is vital to personal recovery, and growth of the organisation.

Avoiding overtraining syndrome

Working on generic programs, pushing yourself too far, too fast, and not allowing for enough recovery time causes overtraining syndrome. Typical symptoms include insomnia, a lack of motivation, lower self-esteem and poor performance. If you’re suffering from any of these symptoms, it’s time to take control before you impact the bottom line.

A leader showing signs of overtraining syndrome is detrimental to their organisation. You’re more likely to make poorer, more emotional decisions and feel that your heart’s not in achieving the company objective. This leads to trickle-down effect, impacting staff morale as the ship isn’t being steered in the right direction. As managers it’s also our responsibility to make sure everyone uses rest and recovery methods, ensuring that the organisation is agile throughout.

To avoid overdoing it, we need to embrace the idea of taking a break to improve performance – making us faster, more flexible forerunners. Rather than organising a getaway last minute, we need to think bigger, and more longer-term, arranging regular sections of time out throughout the year and improving our working practices. It’s not about simply booking a sun holiday and a long-weekend city break, it’s about changing attitudes. Hold more efficient meetings, turn off the company mobile at home, embrace new technologies, leave time for reflection and put your working life out your mind.

By resting and reflecting we’ll come back more resilient and full of energy to last the whole match.