By Michael Gunther

Recently I had a conversation with Kaitlin, one of my team members, about leadership as it relates to building and growing a business. We were discussing a few of the various leaders we know and identifying some key similarities between them. She thought that the strongest ones were those who were active leaders beyond the 9 to 5 work week, as opposed to what my friend Lee calls “Levi’s leaders” – the ones who leave every day at 5:01, just like the blue jeans.

As I pondered these ideas and concepts, I wondered if what we were concluding was that leaders needed to be workaholics versus living a balanced life. Is there a perception that working longer hours makes you a better leader? With this in mind, I asked some other leaders and business owners what they thought about the concept, in hopes of gaining a wider perspective on the 9 to 5 leader.

What I discovered was that the strongest leaders worked smarter at their day-to-day tasks in order to have time to focus on developing their leadership knowledge and skills, which in turn made them better leaders and more successful at building high performing teams and organizations.

In fact, they were not only developing their leadership knowledge and skills related to their professions, but they were also focused on personal interests. It was actually quite intriguing – the individuals I spoke to had very distinct activities including flying, wine/food aficionado, surfing, photography, teaching fitness classes, and so on. These extra-curricular activities were driving them to excel as leaders, providing an outlet away from work to stretch their skills and abilities in different ways.

It appeared that the leaders with solid activities outside of work tended to be less stressed about their companies and more focused on getting the things done every day at work in order to enjoy their outside activities even more. Another characteristic I identified was that these individuals were avid readers. They didn’t just read business books and literature, but they read historical novels, biographies and current news periodicals. These leaders had a thirst for knowledge and were constantly expanding their views and outlooks on the world and how it related to their lives.

They were also able to respond to the day to day challenges at work quickly and were good problem solvers. I have to believe that these traits are again related to their constant quest for learning and improving their personal and professional skills.

Lastly, these leaders were all stimulating conversationalists – people who you want to enjoy an evening with discussing a wealth of topics and ideas. They have diverse life experiences and are knowledgeable in many interesting areas.

Bringing it back full circle to the work environment – no wonder they tend to be strong leaders. Their lives don’t revolve around their jobs, but their work is an element of their lives. They understand in order to achieve their personal goals, they have to learn how to work effectively through others. And isn’t that part of the definition of a good leader – one who helps others achieve their goals and outcomes?

Bottom Line

This concept made me think of a proverb by James Howell from over four hundred years ago – All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy (1659).

Don’t be a dull boy like Jack – hone your work skills, develop outside interests and become a better leader. Your leadership skills will grow stronger the more you try to excel in activities both at work and in your personal life. Don’t just be a specialist in your profession. Become a specialist at something about which you’re personally passionate.

This is another article in a series on Michael’s entrepreneurial story and how being raised in a large family has influenced his career. To read the previous articles in this series, visit his blog at

Michael Gunther is Founder and President of Collaboration LLC, a team of highly skilled business professionals who are dedicated to assisting proactive business owners to build profitable, sustainable businesses through results-oriented education and consulting services. Learn more at

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