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Less doing, more leading

March 31, 2015

This is the second in a series of posts by Linkage’s own strategic thinking expert, Adam Rothberg. Here, we share insights designed to help you save time and be a more effective leader. Click here to start reading at the beginning of the series.—Ed.

In their book Leadership Pipeline, Noel Drotter and Ram Charan identify specific phases in the leadership life cycle (or “pipeline”), from individual contributor to CEO. Based on our work with leaders across the globe, we’ve found the move from individual contributor (managing self) to frontline supervisor or manager (managing others) presents perhaps the most challenging transition.

This is because many individuals choose their job because they like the tasks associated with the role. As a result, they get “good” at completing tasks as individual contributors, and many enjoy the sense of achievement that comes from checking things off of their to-do list. They are stellar performers who are often promoted to manage others in their group.

But after just a few weeks, many of these high-performing individuals report having difficulty managing others and completing their own tasks (even though they have fewer) because they weren’t adequately prepared for the unique time requirements of their new roles.

It’s critical for emerging leaders to understand that every passage along the leadership life cycle requires a reallocation of time and attention from completing specific tasks to higher-level leadership, management, and strategic goals. To help leaders make any transition along the pipeline, we recommend using this simple tool (below) on a regular basis to improve both time management and strategic thinking competencies.


Here’s how it works:

Look at your calendar and categorize your activities into the following four groups:

  1. Expert: Doing direct work
  2. Coach/Enabler: Getting work done through others
  3. Process Leader: Creating and maintaining processes for groups to get things done
  4. Strategist: Establishing direction and culture for the organization

Calculate the approximate percentage of time that you are spending in each category.

Compare time spent, based on your title or role, to assess and adjust the most effective use of your time.

If you’re an individual contributor who’s moving into a managerial role, remember that only 25-30% of your time should be spent doing, or completing tasks, while the rest of your time should be spent leading and managing. Of course, this is only a guideline and subject to individual circumstances. Regardless, it is a helpful model that leaders can use to monitor and evaluate where they’re spending their time, and if that time is being well spent. And since we all need to know where we are spending our time in order to make a change if necessary, this guide is useful no matter where you are on the leadership life cycle.

Where are you spending your time? If you’re spending more time doing than leading, we can help


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