Excess Baggage: How to Lighten Your Load as a Leader


Positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will. – Zig Ziglar

Writing in The Living Faith, Lloyd C. Douglas tells the story of Thomas Hearne, who, “in his journey to the mouth of the Coppermine River, wrote that a few days after they had started on their expedition, a party of Indians stole most of their supplies. His comment on the apparent misfortune was: ‘The weight of our baggage being so much lightened, our next day’s journey was more swift and pleasant.’

Hearne was in route to something very interesting and important; and the loss of a few sides of bacon and a couple of bags of flour meant nothing more than an easing of the load. Had Hearne been holed in somewhere, in a cabin, resolved to spend his last days eking out an existence, and living on capital previously collected, the loss of some of his stores by plunder would probably have worried him almost to death.”

As leaders we often carry a lot of baggage that weighs us down. Perhaps it is the baggage of stress, personnel issues, financial challenges, etc. It’s time to identify this baggage and make changes that will make you a more effective leader.

How different would your life be as a leader if the excess baggage you carried was lightened? Think of how much more productive your day could be without having to shoulder the weight of that baggage. Are you ready to experience it? Here’s how.

If it’s not your baggage- don’t claim it

Unfortunately, many leaders fall into the trap of trying to be all things to all people. While your heart might be in the right place it will only bog you down as a leader. It’s neither your place nor responsibility to be all things go all people or to involve yourself in matters that can easily be handled by others. While it might make you feel good or look good in the eyes of your people, it will burn you out as a leader.

As it pertains to this excess baggage it would do you well to live out the spirit of the Polish Proverb that says, “Not my circus, not my monkeys.”


Travel light for greater results

What Thomas Hearne learned from his misfortune was that the journey was more swift and pleasant with a lighter load. How much more effective could you be as a leader if your load was lightened? It’s when you cut loose from the excess baggage that weighs you down that you make the most progress.

What excess baggage is holding you back and slowing you down? For best results remember – travel light.

Get a fresh perspective

When Hearne’s load was lightened he had a different perspective. Where before it might have seemed burdensome and hard, now it was more manageable. When carrying excess baggage it’s easy to get stressed or have a bad attitude.  It was when he lost what he thought was important that he began to see things in a different light.

When you lighten your load as a leader you will get a fresh perspective of what is important, who is important, and why you should have acted sooner. Nothing will invigorate you more as a leader than a fresh perspective and a lighter load.

Get real about your priorities

Don’t be your own worst enemy. You don’t have to claim baggage (especially that from other people) that is not yours, you don’t have to be the “answer man” for everyone’s problems, and at the end of the day, you are expendable. Don’t allow your pride to tell you otherwise. That being said; get real about your priorities. Set boundaries and stick with it.

Here is an exercise for your consideration: Make a list of some of the “excess baggage” that you are dealing with at work/home and figure out what you need to take ownership of- that which is truly within the realm of your responsibility. Then make a list of what you need to cut loose. Set a target date by which you intend to free yourself from each item. Keep working the list until you are moving more swiftly and the journey is more pleasant.

Your work as a leader will be more productive and pleasant when you are focused on what belongs to you. Your stress levels will diminish when you are not worrying about baggage that does not belong to you. Don’t be afraid to lighten your load. Your leadership depends on it.


© 2016 Doug Dickerson







About dougdickerson

I am Certified Leadership Trainer, author, columnist, and speaker. Husband to Alicia, father to Katelyn and Kara, and "Pop" to terrific grandson Tyson. I am an avid photographer, love the outdoors, and like to travel. I'm passionate about sharing my leadership insights and helping people reach their full potential.
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