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Do you need your leaders to step up? Take a real vacation


After these past two years, you really need a vacation.

Our hybrid work world makes it easier than ever to push vacations to the back burner. Or, take a “kind of” vacation. 

For many leaders I know, vacations are becoming quasi-vacations.  They’re away, but not truly ever away. They’re so used to living in that liminal space between home life and work-life that, unfortunately, they never really manage to leave it—even when they’re officially on vacation. 

Sometimes this is justified and necessary.  There are critical issues at work that make it difficult to take a real vacation. With the Great Resignation still in full swing, people are shouldering more responsibilities than ever before. You need to be there, at least virtually. I get it. 

However, how many times do you end up on a quasi-vacation because you can’t step away from your leadership role?  You fear missing out or don’t trust your people to carry the load in your absence. 

Over the years I’ve learned the value of taking a real vacation — one where you completely disconnect from work, are fully present with your family, and totally immersed in your activities. 

When you are able to truly get away from work, you not only come back refreshed but your perspective on your business is renewed.  I always come back with new ideas and new ways of thinking about old problems. 

But I’ve also learned a really important leadership reason to take a real vacation.  It’s an effective way to develop your direct reports and help them step up as leaders. 


It’s time to stop enabling “learned helplessness” while you’re supposed to be away. 

When you take a quasi-vacation, your team knows you haven’t really left – so it’s business as usual.  When problems surface they immediately reach out to you, rather than deal with them directly.  There’s a missed opportunity to grow and expand their skills. 

What you’re really doing is enabling “learned helplessness” on the job—which isn’t good for you, the people who work for you, or the organization.  


You’re doing your team a service by giving them your full trust when you leave.

By being away, you create the space for others to step up.  These are prime moments to grow others.  They have the opportunity to be exposed to challenges they would not normally encounter in your presence.   

They get the chance to learn new skills, and even if they stumble, the learning is still invaluable. 


Make fully disconnecting a challenge, whose success will benefit people beyond you.

Here are a few ways to start thinking about preparing for a real (not quasi-) vacation. 

  • Make a plan—and enlist others to help. If your team members help you think through the logistics of your absence—who’s taking on which tasks, what can be put off—you cultivate trust all around: you in your team, them in one another, and in themselves. 
  • Talk through worst-case scenarios. With a few trusted people, let your anxious brain come to center stage for a moment and air its concerns. You’ll benefit from thinking them through, minimizing their power, and reassuring yourself that you and others have thought of safeguards. 
  • Be accountable to the people on your trip. Tell the other people on your trip that you plan to fully disconnect from work. Ask them to hold you accountable to that intention—and to them. 
  • Spread the word: Look at leaders around your organization and encourage them to take a vacation, too. Their teams, and the organization as a whole, will be better off.

Are you ready to take a (real) vacation?

About Leadership Contract

We are Leadership Contract Inc (LCI), your partner in strategic leadership development. We help you operationalize leadership accountability at all levels of your organization so you can drive strategy, shape culture, and spark change.

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