Thursday, 15 March 2012

The Effective and Efficient Leader

Leaders have an enormous array of expectations placed on them by a variety of types and kinds of people from Boards of Directors to employees.  How does one meet the needs of different constituencies and still have the time and energy for a personal life? Communicating with confidence and clarity, delegating wisely and being accessible are but a few strategies for effective leadership.  There are many more tactics available for those who want to work smarter, not harder and longer.

There seems to be a premium being placed on how busy one is, how full the calendar appears, how many meetings one attends, how much can be crammed into a day, week or month.  We've become adept at multi-tasking,
multi-use, multi-purpose, multi-function to the point where the multiplication of jobs and applications of energy make one both weary and wary of work as we once knew it.  Research shows it is also terribly inefficient and nearly as productive as some may want to believe.

Consider the difference between your work and your job.  Then look at some of the specific expectations top-level leaders and managers.  Remind yourself of the results of anxiety, stress and fatigue.  And finally, find some plausible alternatives, in addition to a genuine sabbatical, for renewal and regeneration of body, mind and spirit. 

Work is that which we commit ourselves to do using our talents, our skills our time and energy because that's what we love to do.  It's what we care about, it's what we are passionate about, it's what we believe and sometimes what we know from experience that makes a difference in the lives of other people.  Work is part of who we are, it's a privilege and a joy and it is not only what we do, but it is also part of our identity - CEO is much more than a title; Director of a division or Manager of a department is a lot more than directing and managing.

A job, on the other hand, is often what we have to do to get to our work.   A job is something that must be done in order to keep things straight - things like schedules, maintenance, reports, or things that aren't necessarily a priority for you but may well be for someone else.  It's possible for someone to dearly love creating reports or to really like making the place look great and that can be their work.  It might even be part of your work but one needs to be clear that it's nearly impossible to put the same high priority on more than ten or twelve things simultaneously.

Paper work, forms, regulations, all the "stuff" that also takes time, energy and skill often requires supervision and oversight if not your direct involvement.    You may think it's just semantics to separate job and work but it's one way of carving out that which we really like to do, look forward to doing and that which is more mundane and not necessarily the most exciting and rewarding part of what we do.  Ask yourself if you look forward to going to work.  Seldom do people say I am going to a job and yet we talk about job descriptions not work descriptions.
Nan Keohane, a former president of Wellesley,  said that the head of any organization has three big challenges.  I believe the same can be said for a division or department head or director as well.  One challenge is to solve problems, and I would add, anticipate them to the degree possible so that those problems do not escalate and become a crisis.

The second challenge is to make things happen, i.e. find the ways through planning and implementation to realize the stated goals and objectives and the third challenge is to take a stand.  That means making hard decisions and being able to make them stick.   Is there anything you do that doesn't fit into one of those three big categories?

As a CEO or director, you wear that identity wherever you are and you do so
with appropriate pride and confidence.  To be a CEO, a head, a director, a leader is something that is chosen and consciously pursued. It is not merely a response to an invitation to the dance.   When one chooses to be in the position of being responsible for results it comes as no surprise that everyone is watching and evaluating your performance. 

Establishing priorities, having a systematic organization that functions at a high level of efficiency and effectiveness – the well-oiled machine – and knowing who you are in your role along with how you communicate that status go a long way toward being able to meet the multiple demands and expectations that come along with the position.

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