GET YOUR PRIORITIES RIGHT

priorities

Not everything calling for a leader’s attention is important. Not every activity demanding a leader’s time is significant. Not everyone who wants the leader’s attention matters. Not every meeting yearning for the leader’s attendance will contribute to his strategic outcomes. All leaders who will be effective must know this fact as much as they know their name. 

We all live in a world of competitive realities. Added to this, we also live in a world of finite resources. When you juxtapose the competitive realities of our world with the reality of the finite resources of the planet, there definitely arises the need for brutal prioritization for any leader to be effective. 

For instance, the number of hours in our day is limited to twenty-four hours. The number of places a leader can be physically present is limited. And except one is Bill Gates or Warren Buffet, most of us have to grapple with a limited amount of resources to apply to the objectives at hand. This means that without a laser-precise sense of priorities, one is not likely to be effective. 

This means that without a laser-precise sense of priorities, one is not likely to be effective. Click To Tweet

One reason why we struggle with the creation of priorities is what I call the “Nice Guy” syndrome. Somewhere at the back of our minds, we believe in the egalitarian notion of equality. If a leader is not careful one may try to be evenly spread across multiple initiatives. We may even try to give equal attention to everyone desiring it. We may try to spread our limited resources across too many objectives and end up making no impact at all.

For everything you have decided to do, there are going to be many things you won't do. Click To Tweet

The reality, however, is that for everything you have decided to do, there are going to be many things you won’t do. The classic economic notion of opportunity cost and alternative foregone applies here. If you are too tender to accept this reality, you may never lead. The supreme task of leadership, therefore, is decisional in nature. 

The supreme task of leadership, therefore, is decisional in nature.  Click To Tweet

To be effective, a leader has to function by priorities and not by urgencies. The work of Stephen R. Covey has helped us clearly distinguish between the tyranny of the urgent and the viability of the important. Every leader will do well to give heed to him.

How then do we distinguish what is important from what is urgent? I believe we should always ask ourselves what will be the consequence of not doing that particular thing? In other words, there are actions that everything else depends upon. I call them deterministic actions. There are actions that determine the standing of everything else. Those things should never be left unattended. I strongly believe that when we function by priorities, we tame our urgencies and emergencies. 

There are actions that determine the standing of everything else. Click To Tweet

If nothing will happen for not doing anything, it is best that thing is left undone. This means a leader must be leverage minded. Leverage is the point at which minimum input guarantees maximum output. We must get both our personal priorities and our institutional priorities. The things that do matter should never be at the mercy of the things that do. Leaders do not necessarily do everything, they just find a way to do what matters most. I will explore this leverage mindset on a deeper level in the future.

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