Too Many People Not Enough Time

Fifteen years ago I was asked to write a leadership development plan for a non profit organization. We had 110 employees, 25 directors and 400 volunteers serving 10,000-15,000 people each month.

In my institutional naiveté I suggested that instead of developing Leaders we should cultivate and foster leadership practices across the entire organization.

How? By focusing on what leaders do – the actual activities of leaders.

What are those?

Here’s my list: paying attention, initiative, responsibility, listening, action, curiosity, encouragement, follow through, wisdom and love.

Since the job of “Leaders” in my organization was ostensibly to deliver these actions to the 400 volunteers who in turn would deliver them to the 10,000 I had to figure out a way to do that without “using” people up while getting things done because leadership is also very much about getting your work done through other people.

As noble as our goals were, when it came to relational dysfunction, we were just as ruthless as any for profit organization. Our mission drove us to “use” people and then dispense with them. Consequently we suffered high turn over rates on staff and among volunteers.

That frustration sent me on a search to develop a system that enables organizations to consistently “deliver attention” using pre-existing relational networks and hierarchies which I will announce soon

It’s True! You really don’t have time for everyone, but everyone has time for someone.

Real Leaders see to it that everyone pays attention to someone.

 “Attention is the currency of leadership” Ron Heifetz







5 thoughts on “Too Many People Not Enough Time

  1. I wonder who you could be talking about? ha!

    Yes, everyone is a leader. They just don’t have to be the leader all the time. It can be situational. It is one of the things I really like about Ricardo Semler – check out his books, TED talks and Harvard Business School talks. There are lots of examples of the kind of leadership you are talking about.

    I am looking forward to hearing your “off the map” spin on it. 😉

    I, too, have felt for a long time that “collaboration is the new competitive advantage and relationship is the new currency.” You see it happening more and more. People are tired of waiting on the leader to catch up with them – so they can follow.
    [I also think Peter Block, Walter Brueggemann, and John McKnight’s Economics of Compassion is challenging ordinary people to take back their power and shift things without the leader.

    People are starting to get it. Sadly, I have also seen that power has discovered how to exploit this new currency and competitive advantage.

  2. Jim, I’m later than desired in responding to your post and continue to be drawn back to your thoughts concerning leadership, particularly spiritual leadership. The carnage among followers of Jesus due to spiritual “lording over another” is vast and doesn’t seem to be significantly slowing down. I think one of the most reliable ways to equal the playing field of leaders and followers (especially when the governing desire is liberation for both) is to dedicate leadership energy to furthering the goal of self differentiation. If a person is gaining life-giving energy in becoming more of their truest self they will be stronger in taking a personal stand against spiritual bullying and the like dominated by ego and unattended pain. Not only do we need healthy “Leaders” we must nurture non-dependent “Followers.” Each of our stories contain the family of origin stuff that helped build our identities and these have to be lovingly identified or generational damage will ensue. Our shared hunger for fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers is unrelenting. May grace abound among all to make our spiritual lives work.

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