The One Secret to Great Leadership

How many screens do you have open? How many alerts are buzzing right now? I’m guessing you pride yourself on your fantastic multitasking capabilities, but that might be secretly holding you back from being a great leader.

I was recently at a client engagement in Brazil, and it gave me a chance to look at our country and world through the eyes of another culture. I was amazed at how clearly it showed me the one major thing lacking in leadership today—patience.

Most of us are so reactive to the world around us. Of course, it’s easy to see why, since the “inputs” never stop. Call it “shiny object syndrome,” but our attention spans have gotten shorter and shorter, and that’s not a good thing when it comes to leadership.

I believe that we’ve forgotten the most important task of a true leader: taking the time to plan, so we can help our teams focus on the right activities at the right time.

It’s time to rediscover the secret to truly great leadership—figuring out how to pause to take the time to be strategic about customers, clients, your business and your own activities.

A strategic pause can make all the difference in these two areas that threaten to consume all our available time.

Your schedule

Pause and think about your week: what are the three most important strategic tasks you and your team need to focus on to move the business forward? Those are the strategic goals that should drive your time.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • How can you use the activities/tactics related to those three strategic goals to help develop your team members?
  • Can you take some of these tactics under each goal and ask your “A” players to take them on?
  • Can you use your next team meeting as a “lunch and learn” to teach the whole team about one of the tactics or processes?

Delegating meaningful work has two crucial payoffs: it frees up your time to focus on those tasks that only you can do, and it helps retain your employees who are craving responsibility. In fact, a PwC survey found that opportunity for career progression was the #1 quality millennials looked for in a company.

Your inbox

Do you check email before you even get out of bed? If so, you’re hardly alone, but that practice isn’t doing you any favors. I’ve heard the email inbox referred to as a “dysfunctional to-do list,” and that’s spot on. The truth is that your inbox shouldn’t be your to-do list at all.

If you want to truly own your day, you have to begin from a position of deciding what you will do, rather than reacting to what is being thrown at you.

That’s why successful leaders develop a morning routine that allows them to think strategically before they lose themselves in the reactivity of the inbox. What if you tried to NOT look at your phone until you’d taken care of morning productive tasks, like exercise or taking care of yourself and family?

You could take time to focus on those strategic goals, and then read your email through that lens. Instead of reacting to someone else’s priority (delivered via email), you would have your priorities at the forefront. You could then make smart decisions about which meetings you should attend, tasks you should accomplish, and/or calls you should make based on how they align with YOUR priorities.

The rest? Assign them to a team member and let them bolster their skill set while you focus on your strategic priorities.

That pause might be the most useful five seconds of your day.

Your turn:

When do you find it challenging to pause during your day? Share with all of us in the comments below.

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