Are you ready for what is lurking?

Have you ever thought that someone was giving you a compliment, but it turns out, they were not?  Oops. 

I’ve lost track of how many times that someone has told me “I can’t believe you can do everything that you do … your workload seems insane!”  Until recently, I’ve thought that was a good thing.  But now, as I am getting older and wiser (hopefully?), and as I listen to the voices of wise leaders around me, I am beginning to see more clearly that “Wow, you accomplish a lot” can be an accusation of an unhealthy leadership pattern.

In recent months, I’ve had conversations with three people (two of whom have significant senior leadership experience) who have stressed the importance of not going at full speed as an ongoing rhythm of leadership.  What?!  That sounds crazy!  Who aims to do less than 100%?  Good senior leaders do, apparently.

If a senior executive leader is constantly going at 100%, then he or she has no capacity to deal with the inevitable emergency that is lurking where it can’t be seen.  And when the senior leader does not have the capacity to lead through the unwelcome surprises of leadership, the entire organization suffers.  One of the challenges, of course, is that leaders do not know when the emergency will arrive; it could appear tomorrow or maybe not for another four months.  A good leader will have the intentional capacity available to deal with an unexpected organizational “hit”, whenever it arrives.  If the leader is ready.

Further, as one of my leadership friends pointed out, if I operate at less than 100%, that “extra time” is not wasted time, instead, it is building critical mental, emotional, and physical capacity that will be immediately accessible when the emergency hits.  There is some wisdom there, isn’t there?

What is the target percentage for a senior executive leader to aim for?  The ideal number seems to be 80%.  My initial response, again, was “That’s crazy; what kind of lazy leader would actually plan to lead at only 80% of their ability?”  Oh, right, I forgot the point again.  Major emergencies, leadership capacity, health of the organization, etc.

Since coming back from vacation, I have started to adjust my schedule so that I am not racing down the track at 100%.  I am aiming for 80%.  But I have to tell you, it is not easy!  However, I am committed to becoming the best organizational leader that I can be, so I am making changes in the small predictable things that will enable me to lead through the big unexpected things, whenever they arrive.

What about you?  What percentage of your capacity do you currently lead at?  What changes, if any, do you need to make, for the sake of the organization or department that you lead?

Mark


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