54 Principles For Life-Long Sustainable Leadership

Sustainable leadership, to lead with consistent health for 50 or more years, requires constant attention to how you lead yourself today. The person you are most responsible for leading, is yourself. In order to lead others well, you need to first take care of yourself.

Below are some of the lessons I’ve learned about looking after myself as a leader, over the last 24 years. Some are lessons I’ve learned from others, who have led strongly for more than 50 years. Some insights I’ve realised the value of, because they were absent in my leadership practice.

These principles are practices for sustainable leadership. Maybe there is one you need to pay close attention to this week or month. Which one is it?

I’ve found that trying to master too many in a short time-fraction, leads to the failure to implement any.  I’ve also discovered that mastering one, leads to achieving others with less effort than the first requires.

It’s worth noting that it can be easy to slip out of these new found habits.

Living these principles, is the weekly re-applying of ourselves to one or many of them. The goal is not mastering all 54 principles, there are far more than this small collection. The personal goal of every leader should be daily or weekly commitment to healthy, sustained leadership.

Maybe these principles can help you.

Too many leaders conclude their influence prematurely, because their leadership practice wasn’t sustainable. May at least one of these principles help you look after yourself, increase your leadership sustainability and in turn enable you to keep on blessing those you lead.

54 Sustainable Leadership Principles:


  1. Have a single, centralised To-Do list.
  2. Make sure your To-Do list is accessible on multiple devices and in all environments (I use Things).
  3. When you tell someone you’ll do something, put it on your To-Do list.
  4. Develop a To-Don’t list.
  5. Manage your Email inbox to an empty/unread state, try to respond to emails within 2 days of receiving them.
  6. Put aside one hour each working day, straight after lunch, to check and respond to emails.
  7. Mark emails you need to action as unread, or place them into a To-Action folder.
  8. Use your calendar, not your memory, to keep up to date with all you need to do.
  9. If you can, put aside your mornings for creative, thinking work.
  10. When you tell someone you’ll do something with them or for them, refer straight to your calendar or To-Do list.
  11. Review your text messages each night, to ensure you’ve responded to any unanswered SMS.
  12. At the start of each year, take some time to evaluate how your previous year went and what you would like to achieve in the coming year.
  13. Know why you do what you do, and frequently revise and remind yourself of the answer.


  1. Take at least one day a week where you are not defined by work.
  2. Develop a going-home ritual where you disconnect from work.
  3. Build at least 15 minutes, preferably more, of chair time (with God) into every day.
  4. Isolate at least 15 minutes, preferably more, to white space where you permit yourself to think and reflect on anything that comes to mind.
  5. Put aside down-time each day, where no one expects or demands anything from you.
  6. Take your holidays.
  7. Don’t fill your down-time with social media.
  8. The toughest person to give permission to rest, will likely be yourself.


  1. Spend time with people who are not recipients from or contributors to your ministry.
  2. Have support people in place who you can speak to when necessary.
  3. Speak to a professional every 2 – 3 months about how you are really doing.
  4. Find people who do what you do, who aren’t competitors, and become friends with them.
  5. Be the kind of friend you want others to be.


  1. Read widely.
  2. Read books that stand in contrast to your worldview.
  3. Develop the daily practice of journaling and reading Scripture.
  4. Write down what you are learning, to help yourself and others in the future.
  5. Develop/find a mechanism to capture what you read, what you are learning and what others send you. This will become a valuable resource (Evernote is good for this).


  1. Sleep 8 hours a night.
  2. Walk more than 10,000 steps a day.
  3. Exercise at least 3 times a week.
  4. Manage your energy more than you manage your time.


  1. Develop a budget that tracks your spending. (The book Barefoot Investor is the best I’ve read on points 1 – 4, in this section.)
  2. Delete your debt.
  3. Save fiercely.
  4. Invest wisely.
  5. Be generous.
  6. Serve someone who isn’t entitled to it everyday.


  1. Don’t let the stress of your job contribute to the feel of your home.
  2. Your most important ministry is your wife/husband, then your children and then everyone and everything else.
  3. Develop hobbies and interests that have nothing to do with your ministry or work.
  4. Laugh everyday.


  1. Work toward loving 75% of your job.
  2. Don’t postpone meeting with your mentor, even if you think you don’t have something to speak about.
  3. When meeting with your mentor, you are responsible for the agenda, make it good.
  4. Recognise that “I’m too busy” means your motives for working need to be checked.
  5. Know and seek to honour your priorities.
  6. What you give out, requires replenishing.
  7. A life of leadership is a marathon not a sprint and should be approached as such.
  8. Know that the criticism you receive doesn’t mean you are that bad.
  9. Know that the praise you receive doesn’t mean you are that good.

I realise there is much here to digest, but if you would like some expansion on any of the above, please ask your question in the comments below.

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