The Seven Areas That Need Your Attention Right Now As a Leader
- Truth 1. More-Responsible Roles Require More Mental "Bandwidth"
- Truth 2. Inheriting an Assistant Requires Reeducation
- Truth 3. Staffing Your Leadership Office: Your Assistant Plays a Vital Role
- Truth 4. The Gaps in Your Work Habits Show Up When You Move Up
- Truth 5. A Resource-Based View of Your Organization Goes Beyond the Numbers
Truth 1. More-Responsible Roles Require More Mental "Bandwidth"
Leadership is a complex mix of responsibilities and accountabilities. To lead effectively, you need to be able to process large amounts of information quickly and handle multiple tasks at once. In computer terms, you need a lot of "bandwidth."
As you move up in leadership, you may start to feel that your processing speed is slowing down. The greater demands of a new position can expose areas in which your skills are not fully developed. This is not a cause for alarm, but a positive leadership challenge. The trick is to address those areas immediately, before they steal too much mental bandwidth from other vital parts of your job.
The following seven areas require your constant attention:
- Your personal work habits, including keeping track of requests and commitments at meetings, your schedule, and follow-up with your team and others.
- Your personal mood and stress management. Your moods affect many other people once you are in a senior position. As a leader, you need to do whatever it takes to respond with objectivity to the many demands on your time and judgment so that your stress doesn't spread across the organization.
- Your leadership infrastructure and systems, which include how you deal with your budget(s); your support staff; your organization's support functions, such as finance, human resources, and IT; and your organization's operations functions, such as sales, marketing, and manufacturing.
- Your vision and strategy. These need to be developed over time so that they have the clarity and richness that stimulate others to move in the right direction. Whereas management is about avoiding the problems you encounter en route, leadership requires you to chart a string path forward for others.
- Your relationships with your leadership team members. Good working relationships are the most effective way for you to implement your leadership agenda.
- Your relationships with peers and colleagues. These impact upon the goodwill and trust that are vital for effective working. Cross the white space on your organization chart by connecting with others and keeping them informed.
- Your relationship with your boss, whether a board, a matrix of bosses, or just one, is crucial to your success. (But no more so than any of the other areas, so beware of the temptation to attend to your boss(es) before all else!)
Inability to focus at meetings, getting easily frustrated, not attending to important follow-up, and ignoring key players are all signs that you're overwhelmed by your job, and that your bandwidth needs attention.
The easiest way to broaden your bandwidth is to strengthen your support systems. Can you designate someone as your second-in-command? Having such a person, known colloquially as your "2IC," is not only important for you but also a great learning opportunity for a direct report.
But don't make the same mistake as the leader who selected a business manager several rungs below him. The manager wound up filling in for his boss in situations that were way over his head, with negative consequences. It's vital for your own credibility that the people you use are right for their positions.
Remember that all areas of your leadership role need your attention. Neglected areas will inevitably trip you up when the demands of your new role put your bandwidth to the test.