Thursday, January 3, 2013

Don't be too busy to lead

Do you respect the leaders who always look busy, or the ones who are calm and collected? Do you want to follow someone who's harried, or someone who's accessible to you?

Obvious right?

And yet the cult of being busy, and the sense of self importance that comes with that, undermines many aspiring leaders.


Being busy is not a virtue (except maybe in bees). It means you can't manage your time, don't have a competent admin or are trying to do too much (which impacts your ability to lead). Or it means you've hired the wrong people. And since a leader must never be a victim she must always take responsibility for being so busy.

The challenge is the more intense your job the more demands there are on your time, so it's important to set up a system where you are still accessible. This means not over scheduling each day. Whether you or your admin book your calendar, don't ever book every time slot. Leave blocks open so you can walk the halls and respond to people who want to talk with you. And get creative about how you can be available on the phone -- in the car, on the treadmill (although hard to do in the pool!)

When you telegraph that you are over booked you telegraph that you're not in command of your time. Don't ever tell someone you're "triple-booked" - even if you feel like you are. Never make someone feel bad for interrupting you - figure out gracefully how to give them your time at some point in the next 24 hours.

What's underneath all of this is that great leaders telegraph to their employees that they are important to them. Provided you're not dealing with someone who abuses access, your people are more important. They are doing the real work, your job is to facilitate their ability to do their job. The days of the executive who sits in a remote office behind a big desk with three admins in front of them are gone. The days of the social-media-using, accessible leader are here.

Image: Busy Bee on DeviantArt by tyrantwache

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