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Making time for leadership

Isn’t it interesting how often we hear people say, “I would love to do that, but I don’t have time”.  Relating this to the leadership world, making the time in spite of many competing priorities differentiates OK leaders from great leaders and from exceptional leaders.

I read a quote recently, “Time is the most important asset you have – once used, it cannot be brought back”. Of course, many other assets are critical to the success of a leader, however, your ability to leverage those assets effectively and create value depends on how wisely you spend your time for yourself and for your people.

Making time for leadership is vital to being an effective leader.  In fact, “doing” leadership, versus “being” a leader, is the biggest mistake a leader can make.  If we are waiting to make time to “do” leadership, other tasks will often take priority, usually things we can control, which is not people! Making time to “be” a leader is a more effective approach to take on leadership.

If you struggle making time to be a leader; to coach and develop your people; to give feedback and ask questions of your people; to give time and energy to your people; and you find all the other tasks take over, follow these three steps, to start ‘being’ a leader.

1. Record your current working week

For two weeks, use your diary to document how you spend every hour of your working day. Break it into categories that are relevant to your daily work life. You might use a couple of days to come up with the right action categories, such as strategic planning, client contact, coaching of direct reports, innovation, competitive analysis, etc. Don’t double up hours; assign them to one category or another.

2. Design  your ideal picture of how you want to spend your time

Take a helicopter view of your working week. In an ideal world, how would you like to spend your time?  Start with your people.  If you had all the time and energy in your week to develop your people, how would you spend that time?  Then continue with the other categories you have created.

3. Do the math!

Does the way you spend your time match your ideal working week and your key priorities?
At the end of two weeks (10 working days), add up the hours in each of your categories. If it helps, break them down into percentages of your total time. Compare how this breakdown matches your key priorities. Make a list of the matches and mismatches.  Block out time to focus on what you need to do to move towards operating in a way that is closer to your ideal working week.

The last step is to practise.  It’s like learning to drive a car, it can sometimes feel clunky to begin with, but the more you do it, the more naturally it will come to you.


  1. Jayne,

    This is an excellent post with a valuable approach to helping leaders and would be leaders develop their own personal ways of leading. Your last point about it all feeling a bit clunky to start with is important to emphasise as it’s at this point that many people give up. Having a coach or a friend to coax them through is what usually works although I’m sure you’re well aware of that at Altris :-)

    Kindest regards


    Comment by Paul Slater — February 16, 2012 at 01:16

  2. Hi Paul

    Thanks for the feedback, greatly appreciated! The ‘clunky’ step was certainly noticeable at a recent coaching skills workshop for senior managers. However once they noticed they were ALL ‘clunky’, they were happy to practise, practise, practise, with the help of their coach!

    Warm regards

    Jayne Muller

    Comment by Jayne — February 23, 2012 at 12:56

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