At Work

Five Productivity Tips for Busy Leaders

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Let’s face it, leaders tend to be busy. There are always more things to do, ideas to implement, and projects to manage. Here are five essential things to keep in mind as you aim to effectively lead your team, organization, business, or church.

1. Make the good of others your primary aim.

This is a core principle of productivity, and it is the same with leadership. Leadership is not about you. It is about serving others, building them up, and making them more effective.

We should lead this way because it’s right and it’s the way the scriptures teach us to lead (Matt. 20:25-28; 1 Peter 5:1-3). But it’s also true that this is the more rewarding way to lead. It is far more fun to invent ways to help others thrive and grow than it is to conceive plans for our own private advancement.

And, beyond that, you’ll find it actually makes you more effective because it unlocks the essential ingredient for true leadership: trust. Mark Sanborn nails this:

When people know you are interested in their best interests, and in helping them meet their needs, they will trust you. It’s human nature. And that genuine interest in helping others and making a positive difference is the essence of leadership.

Those you lead are not there to serve you; you are there to serve them. This is how Jesus himself led (Matt. 20:28). How could you see your role as being any different?

2. Turn the work over to your team.

You cannot give attention to the true tasks of leadership unless you let your team focus on managing and executing the tactical work.

I’m not saying leaders should avoid all menial work. Jesus himself showed us that is not the case by washing his disciples’ feet on the way to the cross (John 13:12-17). But the primary task of the leader is to set direction, align, and motivate—not primarily create plans and do the specific work tasks.

We don’t succeed at the executive level because of additional functional strengths. You have to turn the work over to your team—even if they can’t do it as well as you at first.

3. Take time to think.

A leader needs to take time to step back, get up on the balcony, and reflect. All good leaders do this. They process what has happened, think of new and better ways to do things, make sure they keep their eye on the big picture, and just plain think.

Leadership requires reflection. The best leaders tend to be the best thinkers.

You need to find your own way to do it, but you need to build this into your life as a discipline. For many leaders, virtually all down time tends to become thinking time. Or you might combine thinking with exercising like Jonathan Edwards, going for long walks to spend time in prayer and thought. The key is that you create time to think and do it regularly.

Beyond the ordinary time you take to think during the course of a week, I’d also suggest taking several days every quarter or six months to go somewhere secluded and read and reflect on major issues and across a broad range of topics.

But don’t merely think. Draw conclusions. That’s the point of thinking. Those who ponder, ponder, and ponder some more, without ever coming to a position on things, will be ill-equipped to bring much insight and help to others.

4. Connect.

Leaders need time not only time to think, but also to connect with people. It should be a top priority to connect not only with the people in your organization or primary sphere of influence, but also with people across your industry, movement, marketplace, or area.

Take the time needed to stay in close touch with the people you serve and to develop networks of relationships.

Conferences are a great place to spend time thinking and connecting with others. This is incredibly effective because leaders are able to share their ideas and see how they are refined and improved by others. This, in fact, is the purpose of conferences: connect with others and share ideas.

5. Don’t ignore the condition of your soul.

Character is at the heart of both productivity and leadership.

Andy Stanley gets this right when he points out that,

…without character you won’t be a leader worth following. Character provides the moral authority necessary to bring together the people and resources needed to further an enterprise….Character is the source of your moral authority.

This means you need to keep your walk with God vibrant and growing. Again, Stanley captures this well:

To become a leader worth following, you must be intentional about developing the inner man. You must invest in the health of your soul. Nobody plans to fail, especially leaders. But to ignore the condition of your soul is the equivalent of planning to fail.

But be encouraged. You aren’t left to develop your character on your own:

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works (Titus 2:11-14).

Editor’s note: This article was adapted from “How Leaders Accomplish More by Doing Less” by Matt Perman. Reprinted with permission.

Read more about principles for personal transformation and leadership in IFWE’s upcoming booklet, Be Transformed: Essential Principles for Personal and Public Life (Available for pre-order! Release Date: May 6, 2019).

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