I love reading leadership articles and books, and no matter how many times there is a “5 Qualities of a Great Leader” type article, I tend to eat it up, even though a lot of the information is similar. In an article titled, “7 Habits That All Great Leaders Have,” this point really resonated:
5. They’re not always busy.
Warren Buffett spends 80 percent of his time learning and thinking. Bill Gates goes off the grid for a week every year for deep reflection. LinkedIn CEO Jeffrey Weiner sets aside two hours every day just to think. Contrary to stereotypes, the best leaders aren’t always frantically busy. They know that having the maximum impact means leaving time for deep concentration and uninterrupted pondering (and yes, even adequate rest).
It really resonated with me as I always think of this George Costanza quote from one of my favourite Seinfeld episodes:
If you have never seen the episode, basically George gets out of work by looking annoyed, which in turn looks like he is always busy. The more you watch the episode, the more you realize how “busy people” really do look “annoyed” all of the time.
One of the best leaders I have ever worked for, seemingly was never busy when her door was open. I would ask, “Do you have a moment?” and she would always say, “Of course I do!” and welcome me into her office. Although I know she had a ton of work to do, she always made time for people and made them feel welcomed and that they weren’t “on the clock.”
I have seen the opposite as well though. When you ask for time and you constantly hear, “I only have a few minutes,” you feel like an annoyance, and it is definitely not a good way to build relationships. It also creates a certain dynamic, as how often do we treat those we respect that their time is limited. I rarely see principals tell superintendents that they are busy, but I have seen the dynamic the other way around.
Can you imagine a student showing up at your office and then telling them how busy you are? Should we do this to those in our organization as well? There are times when 10% of people take up 90% of your time and you have to be clear, but constantly telling everyone how busy you are isn’t laying the foundation for a good relationship.
One of the things that I always say to people is that the higher up you go in the traditional hierarchy of an organization, the more people you serve, not the other way around.
If we aren’t able to make time for the people we serve, can we really be effective as leaders?
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