For Leaders, It’s Not About Time; It’s About How You Think About Time

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Updated from November 27, 2014 post

As I wrap up this Global Leadership Summit “Vision Tour” here in Panama, I find myself thinking back to the hundreds of leaders with whom I’ve connected this month. From Brazil to South Africa, Australia, and on here to Panama, the passion of these leaders has certainly filled my vision-tank.

The best of these leaders have each demonstrated one of the most critical of all leadership disciplines, and that is the ability to wisely use time. More specifically, they have demonstrated the distinctive way that effective leaders think about time.

As I noted in this earlier blog post, this is what sets pace-setting leaders apart from everyone else.

When people ask me about the biggest leadership lesson I’ve learned, my mind quickly races back to a critical moment fairly early in my leadership.

It was when I learned that the effectiveness of my leadership was tied to how I think about time.

I had recently been moved up into my first middle manager position in a medium-sized company.

Those early days overwhelmed me. I couldn’t seem to get anything done on time.

Everyone was upset with me. The sales department was upset with me. The clients were upset with me. My staff was upset with me.

Fortunately, one person who was not upset with me, was my boss. Taking me aside one day, he told me that if I was going to find success I would need to start thinking about time the way a leader does.

He would instill in me three crucial ways leaders think about time:

1.       Time is the great equalizer; we all receive the same 24 hours every day

“Scott, you might not have the same talent as all other leaders,” he would say, “You might not have the same level of financial resources. But I can guarantee that you started today with the same 24 hours as every other leader in the world. Learn to master your time.”

That simple, but profound starting point, was huge.

2.       Leaders don’t merely manage time; they invest it

“Here’s what great leaders know, Scott,” he would go on. “Time is not something to be managed. It’s a precious resource to be invested.”

That took my thinking from “management” to “leadership”.

3.       Leaders align time with values and priorities

“One reason you’ve been struggling is that you’ve bought into the ‘first things first’ mindset,” he would say. “Leader don’t think that way. They think, ‘IMPORTANT things first.”

I learned that leaders must be crystal clear on values and strategic priorities, and then drive their time investments through those priorities.

If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by all that’s on your plate, perhaps it’s not about your time. It could be how you think about your time.

Develop leadership thinking habits about time.

Because the effectiveness of your leadership is tied to how you think about time.

What have you learned about how leaders think about time?


the author

Scott Cochrane

Lifelong learner, practitioner and coach of leadership, across more than 50 countries. Follower of Jesus, husband of Nora, grateful parent and grandparent.

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