Why You Need A Replenishment Strategy


Leadership "is mundane, unromantic, and boring."[1] Those are tough words, but straight from the heart of Peter Drucker, one of the foremost authorities on leadership and management. Drucker was out to dispel romanticized notions of leadership. He wanted us to know that leadership is not something reserved for the charismatic or "highly qualified."

 In The Essential Drucker he writes,

What then is leadership if it is not charisma and not a set of personality traits? The first thing to say about it is that it is work--something stressed again and again by the most charismatic leaders...[2]

Leadership is hard work! Precisely because it is an arduous task, leaders need a replenishment strategy.

"There's A Hole In Your Bucket"

As a child, I sang the words to this silly song:

There's a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza,
There's a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, a hole,
Then fix the hole in the bucket, dear Henry, dear Henry,
Fix the hole in the bucket, dear Henry, the hole.
With what shall I fix it, dear Liza, dear Liza,
With what shall I fix it, dear Liza, with what?

If you are a leader, there is a hole in your bucket too, or more likely, a big faucet. Setting vision, determining strategy, raising leaders, raising capital, endless communication, and constant change mean that leaders are giving of themselves all the time.

Leadership is a draining enterprise! God does not want you to "go down the drain" in your efforts to lead well. You must take time to rest.

This is a lesson taught in nature, in history, and in Scripture.

Nature: The Lesson of The Beast

A few years ago, I traveled to Chile to participate in a conference for church planters. My host was Mr. Patricio Contesse, a Chilean businessman with a huge heart for God and his work. Patricio, who enjoys time on his large ranch when he is not running his international operations, is an astute observer of nature.

As we drove through the streets of Santiago, I quizzed Patricio on how he handles international travel, something he does often. That is when he shared with me, "The Lesson of the Beast."

When I take a beast from one part of my ranch to another, I notice something quite peculiar. The first day I move the beast, it does nothing. The second day, it begins to work.

I have applied that lesson to my travels. When I travel, I arrive a day early, giving my body an opportunity to rest. Then when the second day begins, I am ready to work.

The last time I traveled internationally, I followed the lesson of the beast.

I arrived early at my destination. I rested and acclimated. Then I got to work. The result was lots of energy and a more enjoyable trip.

Rest is important, so important that God has hard-wired the concepts in creation. Animals rest. There are seasons for the land to rest. Even the day gives way to night for a time. Leaders must remember this lesson: rest and replenish.

History: Why Churchill painted on the Western Front

Winston Churchill served as a Lieutenant-Colonel during World War I. In 1916, Churchill spent time in the trenches at the Western Front. Martin Gilbert, his official biographer shares this interesting incident from Churchill's time in battle:

While at Laurence Farm, Churchill amazed his young officers by setting up an easel and starting to paint. He subjects were the battered farmyard with its shell-holes, and shells exploding over Ploegsteert village. Painting absorbed the mental energies which would otherwise brood on politics. He recognized painting's value to him: 'I think it will be a great pleasure & resource to me if I come through all right,' he told his wife . . . .[3]

Painting continued to be a great means of replenishment throughout Churchill's life. He is not alone in his need to recharge the batteries. George Washington devoted as much as a month a year to fox hunting. John Adams took long walks and went horseback riding. Teddy Roosevelt loved to hunt. Woodrow Wilson loved to take afternoon drives. FDR collected stamps.

Leaders need ways to put fuel back in their tanks. History reveals this.

Scripture: God wants you to have a healthy soul!

The most important reason for developing a replenishment strategy is for the sake of your soul. Leadership experts are fond of using words like "true north," "compass," and "inner journey." They recognize that there is a center-pole holding up the leadership tent. In Proverbs, God says:

Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.
— Proverbs 4:23 ESV


Leaders are "keepers of the spring," but this is not a work they do by themselves or in their own power. God provides time for rest and replenishment. He does this so our spring doesn't get muddy!

  • God's gives the gift of Sabbath rest.
    Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work ... For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
    Exodus 20:8-11
  • God provides a nightly time of rest.
    It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. Psalm 127:2
  • Jesus modeled rest and replenishment.
    The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. And he said to them, "Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while." For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves.
    Mark 6:30-32 ESV

The priority God places on stopping can be found in the eight words of Psalm 46:10:

Be still, and know that I am God.

God only commands what we need. We need times to replenish. He gives us these times because he loves us. He gives these times because he wants us to lead with a healthy soul.

4 Rules of Replenishment

One would not think it takes strategy to carve out time we need for sustained leadership excellence. But it does! Here are four rules for replenishment:

1. Take responsibility

Dee Hock, former CEO of Visa said, "It is management of self that should occupy 50% of our time and the best of our ability."[4] His point? Leaders must take responsibility and devote time to their own leadership. That includes their replenishment strategy. It's the leader's job!

This is illustrated in the life of George Müller who cared for over 10,000 orphans during his lifetime. In the pamphlet, Soul Nourishment First (1841), he said:

It has pleased the Lord to teach me a truth, the benefit of which I have not lost, for more than fourteen years. The point is this: I saw more clearly than ever that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord.[5]

Business leader, Dee Hock, and the quiet leader for God, George Müller, remind me that when it comes to developing a replenishment strategy: It's my job!

2. Discover what fills your tank

Leaders need to know what drains them. That may be lengthy meetings, intensive time thinking about vision and strategy, presentations to constituents, or resolving conflict on the job. When we know it, we can be better prepared for the toll it takes on our bodies.

Take a moment and think about what drains you. Write it down.




Leadership Tank
Leadership Tank

Leaders also need to know what fills them. History is an interesting place to look when it comes to replenishment. As has been mentioned, Churchill painted--a lot. John Adams took walks. Washington devoted time to fox hunting.

What "fills your tank?"

You may get replenished by spending a day at the beach, taking time to read, going to the movies, enjoying a quiet walk, engaging in a special hobby, or by any number of things. The key is to know what refills your tank.

Regular Sunday worship is both something to which God calls me and something that fills my heart. I must have this time in my life. As I gather with our church family and lift my heart in praise, God fills my tank to serve him. There are other things that God uses in my life: working in the yard at an unhurried pace, detailing my car, long walks, and times to read. I know I need these, so I plan for them.

List three things that fill your tank:




3.  Find your rhythms and guard them

In Ordering Your Private World, Gordon MacDonald admonishes us to know our rhythms for maximum effectiveness.[6]

Rhythms are the patterns we develop that help us to be at our best. Rhythms can be

  • Daily (a regular quiet time with God),
  • Weekly (day off, marriage date night),
  • Monthly (a husband/wife getaway, planning day),
  • Quarterly (quarterly review of goals)
  • Annually (family vacation, leadership conference).

Henry Knox was a key leader for General George Washington during the Revolutionary War. A letter to his wife helps us see something of his daily rhythm:

I generally rise with or a little before the sun and immediately, with part of the regiment, attend prayers, sing a psalm or read a chapter [of the Bible]. I dispatch a considerable deal of business before breakfast."[7]

Knox had a daily rhythm and it seems to have served him well. Again, the secret is to know what fills your tank and then to build those practices into your life so that they become part of the rhythm of who you are.

4. Use an assessment tool

The best-laid replenishment strategies go awry. Having a regular time and tool to assess your life and replenishment strategy can go a long way to making good intentions powerful habits. One tool I have used for years is Checking The Gauges, another I am implementing is the Life Frame Weekly Review developed by Will Mancini. Both tools are helping me assess my life and re-calibrate.

Your life and leadership are like a big bucket. Things are going to drain you -- people and problems, achievements and opportunities. Smart leaders know they need a replenishment strategy. What's yours?


The Leader's Life & Work is devoted to helping leader maximize and multiply their one and only life. Here are some additional posts relating to self-leadership:


[1] Peter F. Drucker. The Essential Drucker. (New York: HarperBusiness, 2001). Page 268. [2] Drucker. The Essential Drucker. Page 269. [3] Martin Gilbert. Churchill: A Life (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1991). Page 349. [4] Dee Hock, quoted in Courageous Leadership. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. 2002. [5] George Muller, Soul Nourishment First. [6] Gordon MacDonald. Ordering Your Private World. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2003). Page 94. [7] David McCullough. 1776. (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005). Page 147.