Analyzing Whether Routines Empower or Entrap a Leader

Lauren wakes up the same time each day at 5:30 am. She checks her phone, quickly washes, puts on her gym clothes, drinks her coffee and runs to the fitness center for a 45-minute workout or class.

She returns home, showers, dresses and heads to work. First thing she does is open her email with a sigh of relief that nothing new has popped up since checking her phone an hour ago and grabs another cup of coffee. She is ready to start her day. Her day is filled with scheduled meetings, assignments to complete and deadlines. She brings lunch to her desk and hopes she will get out by 7 pm to meet up with friends. She feels accomplished.

Does this sound like your workday with a few adjustments with different timeframes or activities? Maybe you are heading home to family instead. What matters is whether our daily routines complement our leadership or detract from it. Are we in “full steam ahead” mode or stuck in the hamster wheel?

Do routines empower or entrap a leader?

The answer is a little of both. Here’s why.

Routines can bring us a sense of comfort and predictability

When leaders know what their daily structure looks like they are more likely to follow it. If we take out of our daily equation, “overthinking”, we know what to expect and just march forward. It feels familiar to set up a schedule that we know we can commit to and is within our capability range. It’s like wearing the same style of shoes because they work and fit well.

Routines can provide accomplishment

As we saw with Lauren, following our built-in routines can help us attain our goals. We can stay physically fit, be productive at work and enjoy an engaging social life. Routines help us measure our achievements and be accountable for our successes and derailments. They basically assist us in answering the most important question- “Am I there yet?”

Routines can help us stay focused

The great benefit of following a daily structure is that it keeps us on track. We always know where we need to be and what our assignments and responsibilities look like.

  • Routines help us start our day with direction.
  • Routines complement our body rhythms and pace.
  • Routines prevent us from missing critical deadlines or meetings when they appear on our calendar.
  • Routines keep our road clear of obstacles that may send us down a divergent path.
  • Routines can hinder our growth

    The flip side of following an exact routine is that leaders may find themselves stuck in the same spot. If we never try a new workout routine or we just go through our workdays robotically, we may miss out on new opportunities.

    To grow your leadership: switch up how you begin your day; commit to learning a new skill that will add to your job responsibilities; read books or articles on topics that interest you; volunteer for a new assignment that makes you stretch.

    Routines can derail relationships

    Often if we are doing the same thing each day without varying our routine, we can come across as uncaring and disconnected. We can look like someone whose primary focus is the project at hand, rather than the people on our team working with us. Leaders are more people focused than task focused and routines can sometimes cut out the people piece.

  • Make sure to ask team members how their day is going.
  • Listen to co-workers’ concerns even if that means taking time from working on a particular task. It will be worth it.
  • Roll-up your sleeves and offer to help.
  • Routines can block us

    The worst part of a routine is that is can stop us from being authentic leaders. When leaders get too caught up in doing things within their small comfort zone, they will have blinders on and not see the reality around them. Team members may end up excluding us from decisions if they sense we aren’t open to different perspectives. Our work world may leave us behind. So break out of your routine when you see yourself in that hamster wheel.