On an individual note, having outside interests keep you fresh, introduces you to new people, provides new ideas, and let's you get away form the day-to-day details of the organization. Having a fresh perspective...being around creative and smart people...using other parts of your brain...being at meetings where you are not in charge...having time to think on the plane or in the car...catching up on sleep in the hotel room...making new friends and relationships. All of these are good for one's growth and energy, thereby adding to one's leadership capacity and capability.
Having outside interests is also good for your organization. Consider what you can bring back to the organization after being involved in these outside interests:
- new ideas from organizations that are different from yours
- new friends who could possibly become customers or donors
- new partnerships that build on current or future programs
- new ways of saying the same thing - a fresh rhetoric
- opportunities for others in your organization to get involved in outside interests
There is much that can be learned from one's outside interests - both personally and for one's organization. The trick is balancing the time needed for both. Perhaps the mix changes during different seasons of one's career or different stages of the organization. Few people will tell you to spend more time outside your organization - it will probably be up to you to figure out the mix. Don't be afraid to ask your team if you need to spend more time inside or outside..they will probably be very honest with you. And here's the final paradox...when you feel as if you are spending too much time on outside interests, you are probably not spending enough...and if you feel you are spending too much time on inside issues, you are probably not spending enough. It is never a balance - it is an understanding that both are important...both will take more time than you have...and both need to be managed. Enjoy your outside interests!