Leadership is no easy task. To be successful you have to manage a large and complex set of competing priorities. It’s tough to make decisions under pressure. It’s difficult to sometimes know what needs to be done now. And it’s tough to do good work when so many people are clamoring for your time and attention.
But there are two categories that all of these demands fall into, and it’s worth thinking about how much time you spend in each category.
A lot of what shows up on a leader’s desk is about the here and now. There are decisions that need to be made now, and there are urgent problems that the leader is responsible for helping to solve. There are also opportunities that must be pursued right now or they may be lost forever.
If there isn’t an endless parade of the “ important now” problems, challenges, issues, and opportunities vying for your limited attention, you are doing something wrong as a leader. You must make time to help solve the problems, deal with the challenges, and capitalize on the opportunities. If you don’t spend some time here, neither you nor your team will produce the results of which you are capable.
But “important now” is only part of what needs your attention.
Important in the Future
A leader’s job is about more than “now.” The leader’s job is really about the future. With all the urgencies of the day-to-day tasks of leadership, the future can easily get crowded out. So a great leader blocks time for the future.
You need to block time to read, study, and educate yourself about the trends that will impact your organization and your clients.
You need to block time to brainstorm and imagine the future. You need to consider all of the ways that you might move the team you lead to that future. You need to spend time sharing your vision.
The investment of time making the future a reality means spending time building the next generation of leaders, coaching and mentoring people as deep into your team as possible.
The future is going to require that people believe and act differently. That means time must be spent ensuring they have the skills to bring that future to life.
Without spending time on the future, you can lose the possibility of capturing it.
A great leader deals with what’s important now, but always with an eye towards the future. Make sure you balance your time, your effort, your energy, and your investment in people between what’s important now and your future.