A Leader Works On the Business, Not In the Business

How often do you start the day with a task that is easy to get off your plate and makes you feel like you got something accomplished? If you are doing this regularly, you are most likely working in the business, not on the business.

Effective leaders are responsible for charting the course of the organization or department, leading (not managing), and focusing on accomplishments and processes. They understand the difference between being busy and being productive.

Leaders working on the business almost always achieve long-term, sustained success. They define a vision, develop plans to accomplish the vision, surround themselves with the right people, and make decisions solely in the best interest of the organization. Activities are focused on life at the 40,000 foot level, not the 5,000 foot level.

Executives sometimes spend too much time on day-to-day duties rather than big picture strategic activities because they are easier to deal with, the path to accomplishment is reasonably clear, and there is little short-term accountability surrounding what they accomplish. It is challenging and often difficult to tackle tasks that are complicated and where the solution or path is unknown. In addition, executives often rationalize that life is good today and there is no need to think about the future. Plus, who has the time?

As a leader, many people depend on you to accomplish the things that are expected of you—determine where you need to be, figure out how to get there, adapt to changes, and be accountable for success and failure. You supply the mind power and your team supplies the manpower.

Working on the business, not in the business, is not only a nice thing to strive for, but a responsibility of a leader. At the end of the day, when things aren’t where they need to be you have two choices regarding accountability—look in the mirror or blame others. You can be sure that everyone in the organization knows where to look. Being a leader is hard, but the results of working on your business and not in your business will be profound and lasting.

Stephen W. Christian can be reached at schristian@kmco.com or 215.441.4600.

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