Do You Need to Stop and Smell the Hollandaise?

How often do you smile on the job?

Better yet, how frequently do you just laugh out loud while leading your team?

Earlier in my career, I took myself way too seriously as a leader. I was so focused on teaching, leading, and building the congregation I serve that I rarely gave myself an opportunity to stop and smell the proverbial roses.

Eventually, that type of thinking leads to burnout – both for the leader and the people he or she is leading. And, thankfully, I had a wakeup call before it was too late.

Here’s how it happened:

My family was at the mall one day, late in the Christmas season shopping for last-minute gifts. Almost out of desperation, my kids picked up a copy of a book to give my wife, Sharon. I thought that was that and moved on.

My wife read the book, called Say Please, Say Thank You: The Respect We Owe One Another, and constantly raved about it – so much so that she insisted on reading parts of it to us at dinner.

One evening, after a busy family ski day in the New Jersey mountains, she read this section to us about shared meals. The author, Donald McCullough, quotes a beautiful passage from Robert Capon:

"Moderation is called for in all things, including zealotry in diet. Robert Capon . . . puts it this way: 'Food these days is often identified as the enemy. Butter, salt, sugar, eggs, are all out to get you. And yet at our best we know better. Butter is . . . well, butter; it glorifies almost everything it touches. Salt is the sovereign of all flavors. Eggs are, pure and simple, one of the wonders of the world. And if you put them all together, you get not a sudden death, but hollandaise – which in its own way is not one less bit a marvel than the Gothic arch, the computer chip, or a Bach fugue.'"

After she told me who the author was, it struck me: I previously read an amazing book about holiness by the same man. So this juxtaposition – a writer who could impact me equally when referencing holiness and hollandaise – was powerful.

But, in terms of leadership, what’s the point? What does all this – hollandaise and smiling and laughing – have to do with leadership?

A lot, actually. It's an idea that Jesus modeled well – sometimes you simply just need to sit down, relax, laugh and take a break. That's leadership, too!

As we've talked about in prior newsletters, Jesus knew how to have a feast, and he could host one good dinner party. He said this about himself: "The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say 'Here is a glutton and a drunkard.'" Another translation says, "The Son of Man came, enjoying life."

Here's the deal: Hollandaise and holiness aren't mutually exclusive.

The holiest human to ever walk the earth enjoyed life so much that his enemies accused him of being a drunkard and a glutton. Obviously, Jesus took his job seriously. He knew what he came to do, and he changed the course of human history while he was here. Yet he also knew how to take a deep breath and live life to the fullest. His mission was serious, but he didn't take himself too seriously.

There's so much to learn in Jesus' example. It's okay to take a break. It's okay to go on a vacation. It's okay to take an extended lunch or go walk around the mall to get a little exercise during the workday.

As leaders, we can't forget that we have to treat ourselves well, too – not just our teams. And, sometimes, that's sitting down at a dinner table and just relaxing – enjoying that filet with hollandaise and forgetting about the big project at work.

Jesus showed us that feasting is a holy activity. Whether we're eating or simply lounging by the pool, we have to prioritize rest and relaxation.

So take a breath, laugh a little, and enjoy life – while being an outstanding leader.

And while you’re at it, pass the hollandaise, please. I’m hungry now.

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Robert Bruce