Leaders should take their leisure seriously

News that UK Conservative party leadership and Prime Ministerial candidate Boris Johnson “makes model buses” in his leisure time has piqued the interest of PhD leadership researcher Emilia Bunea.

Emilia Bunea

A former CEO, Bunea studies business leaders’ relationship between their performance in work and during their hobbies and how the leisure activity can support the professional.
Johnson revealed his love of “making things” in an interview on the campaign trail. “I paint people enjoying themselves on the wonderful bus,” he said.

Johnson may not have been taking the question seriously but he should, says Bunea, who recently took part in TEDx London Business School to share her 'serious leisure' philosophy.
“It is serious leisure if Mr Johnson speaks excitedly about it to his friends, is part of a community of bus model makers, is striving for ever-higher achievements in it and is undeterred by adversity. It isn’t if Mr Johnson does it now and then, purely for fun (then it’s just a hobby).

“If it is serious leisure, it’s probably the best use of his spare time he could make. Serious leisure forces leaders obsessed with their work to fully disconnect, to close their work brain off. That is rarely achieved through a mere hobby, meeting friends or even spending time with loved ones. In turn, being able to disconnect leads to better decision making, something we all want from our leaders.

“Moreover, serious leisure gives leaders ‘another leg to stand on’, another identity they excel in, so that they don’t over-identify with their leader role. The dangers of over-identification are great, especially for public figures. Leaders have trouble viewing themselves as anything else than the high profile roles they occupy.”