Leadership Productivity

Person looking up at the night sky

Five lessons from Michel Onfray

How can we increase our leadership productivity at a time we seem to have fewer hours in the day? Our workplaces, our lives, and the larger global context are moving at much faster paces where minutes have become essentially nanoseconds. For French philosopher Michel Onfray (2015), this context of our modern time is a result of virtual reality.

Resilience and adaptability are becoming increasingly popular terms to describe what we need to adopt to work more productively. But by becoming more resilient, adapting better, doing work more efficiently and more effectively, we may not end up as a civilization where we want to be. In fact, Onfray (2015) calls our attempts for adapting highly destructive.

So, then how can we increase our leadership productivity without adapting in this way? Below are some of the steps I believe are helpful.

1. Reframe the framework of productivity

If we can embrace leadership productivity that grasps the centrality of creating a civilization that can go beyond measuring success according to how many tasks you can fit in a day, I believe we have a fighting chance. What really matters to you?

2. Eliminate what does not matter

More than ever before, humanity is faced with the challenge Onfray (2015) refers to. Burnout is felt ever more with fewer commutes, COVID related restrictions, and new-found screen time. What matters to you but less than that which really matters?

3. Find “alive time”

Numerous studies show the connection between finding space in your day and life to connect within, with others, giving yourself a break. What makes you feel alive? Find what Onfray (2016) calls alive time. This centrally includes health.

4. Refusal

If the kind of resilience and adaptability that is often praised as critical capacities is in fact highly destructive, as Onfray (2015) has argued, then it leads to civilizational destruction. Perhaps we ought to consider a different kind of adaptation and resilience practice for our collective future – and now. To increase our productivity then is leading in a way that insists on the possible over the probable; it is a refusal of the status quo (McGranahan, 2016). It is more than that, it is a refusal of our current paradigm (Onfray, 2015).

5. A framework for leadership productivity

A framework for leadership productivity, for me, is about creating a civilization. That is, creating a civilization that recognizes how interdependent we are with the planet. Such entails questioning what we are producing – not just things but the kinds of selves we are producing. Such entails connecting individual wellbeing and health to planetary health.

The to-do-lists and working through tasks are part of productivity. But how can we also get better at leading more productively? Quoting John Kellden (n.d.): “becoming increasingly aware of how our intentions, perspectives, languages, tools and practices, shape our re-aligning around centers and how our re-enactment of experienced worlds, shape us in return and shape what futures we imagine, reverse imagineer and leave as legacy, seven generations to follow.”

How might we “reverse imagineer” together?


McGranahan, C. (2016).  Theorizing Refusal: An Introduction. Cultural Anthropology, 31(3), 319-325. 

Onfray, M. (2015). Cosmos. Flammarion.

Kelldon, J. (n.d.). Societal Reimagination: Human Scale. Medium. https://medium.com/@johnkellden/societal-reimagination-human-scale-f22ca49ad63d

Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash