“Looking back, my life seems to be one long obstacle course, with me as the chief obstacle.” – Jack Paar
One of the things that holds true for leaders everywhere is that there is never a shortage of new things to learn. People change, technology changes, markets change, customers change – the list goes on and on. The world continues to evolve, and the knowledge required to lead in the world changes with it.
That being the case, it’s always a frustration of mine that so many leaders spend so little time learning. They might go to some required training somewhere, or read an article every once in a while about a topic that looks interesting, but it’s pretty haphazard. Relatively few leaders actually sit down and think about what they need to learn and then make a plan to intentionally go do it.
When I ask people about this, they always say they just don’t have enough time. Don’t worry, I usually respond, you’ll have plenty of time pretty soon when you’re obsolete and no longer have a job. They don’t like that response, but most of them get the point. If being an effective leader requires to be a lifelong learner, then how can you say you don’t have time?
As usual, the core issue is that too many leaders are busy being busy, and not busy being effective. Rather than tell you to sit down and think about the changes in your business and the capabilities you’ll be required to have as a leader in the future, and then telling you to put together a plan to gain those capabilities, I’ll simply say this instead: What are you spending your time doing that doesn’t need to be done? What are you spending your time doing that someone else in your organization could do? What are you spending your time doing simply because you like doing it, or it’s comfortable?
One of the most critical parts of being a leader is thinking about where your business needs to be in the future and what change has to happen for you to get there. You have to apply that same thought process to yourself. You have to have a picture in your head of what you need to look like to succeed as a leader five or ten years down the road. But you have to create time for yourself to develop that picture and execute on it.
Take a few days and note what you spend your time doing. What isn’t important? What doesn’t need to be done? Or, if it needs to be done, what doesn’t need to be done at an all-star level? Not everything requires an award-winning performance. Get out of the cycle of being busy. Start being effective, and start working on you.