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Science backs it up

Recent research repeats, almost verbatim, what O’Leary does: if you want to be a great leader, you need to stop thinking about work all the time.

In a Harvard Business Review (HBR) article published last month, researchers explained that leaders who performed best in the workforce were those who set aside their work at the end of the day.

The study, which was published in the Journal of Applied Psychology and followed 73 leaders over a 10-day period, noted that those who didn’t step away from work had “drained their mental resources.”

Researchers discovered that leaders who felt “recharged” during their 9-to-5 had detached from work the night before. But those who felt “drained” had been thinking about work (or were working late) in their time off. Even employees noticed the differences in their bosses: the “more effective” team leaders were the ones who had stopped thinking about work at home.

“We found that not taking a break from work in the evening backfired for leaders, especially for those new to managerial roles, because it drained their mental resources,” the researchers wrote in HBR.

Although O’Leary made his comments prior to the release of this research, it turns out he was right on the money in his assesment.

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Business leaders back it up, too

But if the science isn’t convincing enough, you can look to other business legends, like Bill Gates and Arianna Huffington. The two vehemently agreed with O’Leary about the importance of fostering a life outside of work.

Gates has spoken many times over the years about the importance of reading during his downtime and its contribution to his success. In fact, he’s so passionate about reading that he regularly blogs about his favorite books.

But he doesn’t just read business books or computer manuals. He loves The Catcher in the Rye and David Foster Wallace’s String Theory, amongst a whole host of novels, biographies and non-fiction books.

Huffington didn’t have such an easy foray to living a fulfilled life outside of work. The Huffington Post founder only realized how much her job had taken over her life when she woke up in a pool of her own blood. She was so over-exhausted and sleep-deprived that she had collapsed and broken her cheekbone, according to a Medium article in which she wrote about the 2007 incident.

From that day forward, Huffington prioritized sleep and her overall health. She even left HuffPo. She then founded Thrive Global, a well-being and behavior change platform, to help more people realize that work isn’t everything.

It seems like figuring out what you like to do outside your job is deeply important for your overall success in the workforce. Whether it’s reading or exercise or spending time with family, it will only make you a better leader — according to science and some of the richest people in the world.


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About the Author

Sabina Wex

Sabina Wex


Sabina Wex is a writer and podcast producer in Toronto. Her work has appeared in Business Insider, Fast Company, CBC and more.

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