Can A Leader Be Too Efficient?

Can a leader be too efficient?

For most of my career at Intel I focused on being as efficient as possible. This was especially true with how I spent my time, at least that is what I thought. I always had more to do than there was time available and I sought out activities to cut. Looking back, I prioritized my time on getting things done and through a conversation this week, I realize I may have been my own worst enemy.

Can a leader be too efficient?

In the conversation, my client valued being an efficient leader. Like my time at Intel, they had lots of demands on their time, and where they invest it is important. The problem they faced was how to deal with many interruptions from their team members. They could get so much more done if they weren’t being interrupted. This resonated strongly with me but this time another thought came to mind. We could have discussed how my client could better plan their time. For example by using office hours to set aside specific time for interruptions. In fact, there are many other ideas we could have considered.

What is the role of a leader?

Before we jumped into problem solving mode, I wondered if we were solving the right problem. Was the answer to minimize disruptions? The role of an effective leader is to multiply the value the team around them generates. In effect, they need to develop and grow the capability of their team. If they do this well, the team will achieve more, and the leader will also have more available time. It occurred to me many leader aren’t focused on helping the people around them. Instead, they are focused on getting more done in their limited time. It is a fools errand. If they spent less time trying to get more done and invested more time helping their team, they would become truly efficient.

I wish I had figured this out much earlier in my career. By doing less I would have gotten more done and that’s an approach that would have served me very well. Where are you investing your time? Are you focusing on being a ‘me’ or a ‘we’ oriented leader? The latter is the way to scale your leadership and become more efficient.