Pitstop - Refuel


Wrong fuel

“There you go sir. Here are the keys to your car, the work has been done and as we have had it for a while, we have topped it up with petrol.”

Maybe he didn’t see the puzzled and concerned look on my face, but I hoped he understood the problem when I uttered the words, “I hope you meant diesel.”

“No, petrol,” was the reply that told me, he hadn’t understood what the sign ‘diesel’ meant by the fuel filler cap and the tractor like engine of my 2001 Ford Mondeo. Now, it may have been 24 years ago, but I still remember that sinking feeling, fortunately rectified by a mechanic friend of mine.


We all know the importance of making sure a car doesn’t run low or out of fuel. We also all know the importance of putting the right fuel in a car too. Well, apart from the bodyshop delivery driver in 1997! So, if we know that for cars, why do we struggle for doing this for ourselves? Why is refuelling a tough thing for leaders?


Know the signals

Have you ever had the orange fuel light go on? Every time I have had it happen it makes me jump. That is maybe why I try to avoid it like the plague and fill up well before that happens. Jeremy Clarkson once did a journey on Top Gear in a car to see if it could go from London to Edinburgh and back on one tank of fuel. As he neared London his fuel warning light went off and the last part of his journey was all on the orange light, driving far longer than the gauge said he could. But live your life and leadership like that and it will in time lead to breaking down and stopping. The orange light on a fuel tank is there for a reason and as leaders we need to know what are the ‘orange lights’ for us. How do you know when you are running low on fuel and energy? What do you see?

Tiredness? Irritability? Loss of interest in things? Relationship tensions? For each of us they will be different things, but what are yours when you are physically, mentally or spiritually in need of fuel?


Know your fuel

Now my bodyshop car delivery man, didn’t know the fuel it needed and the wrong fuel didn’t help. As leaders, we need to recognise what fuels us. I know that I need to work on my RPMS (to continue the car theme – watch your Revs Per minute). I know the fuel I need is

  • Relational – time with my few close, trusted friends

  • Physical – 7+ hours sleep a night, exercise in the form of my 3 runs a week

  • Mental – reading leadership & psychology books

  • Spiritual – reading and reflecting, time with God

When I know what my fuel is, when I know when I am feeling low, I can reflect on what have I not spent so much time on recently. Which of these tanks above need refuelling? Each of us is different. For some your relational tank may be larger. For some their spiritual tank is smaller. Work out what fuels you. Think about the times you have been most energised. What had you been doing prior to that that helped you?


Purposeful & Responsive

The best way to work is to plan in regular pitstops to refuel. To make it a regular part of your week. This means you are less likely to run low. But when peak work times happen, you may find you have accidentally let a tank run low. The need then is to be responsive and to act. It may help to ask trusted friends to be your guardrails. To tell them what your ‘orange light’ looks like and to ask them to hold you to account for refuelling.


I hate the orange light going off on the fuel gauge. I know of others who seem to live on the orange light and they are fine with that. Whether you are a proactive fueller or a reactive fueller, make sure you refuel!



Everyday Leader is here to inspire and equip you so that you are empowered. If you are finding you need help to evaluate your fuel type and how to establish times to refuel, you may benefit from coaching with us. Do let us know if we can be of help to you by contacting us at colin@everydayleader.co.uk

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