In my years working with large organizations, I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that they all seem to operate on the same currency: busyness.
In most enterprises, not only is there nothing worse than seeming to have time on your hands, it’s actually a badge of honor to be “swamped” and to have days of back-to-back meetings.
How busy you are becomes a proxy for your level of importance.
So, we schedule endless meetings, over-commit ourselves, and otherwise ensure that we don’t have a minute to breathe, let alone think.
But I’ve noticed one other thing in my years within the enterprise and since: the most effective leaders excel at doing one thing differently.
The Big Idea: Separating the Leaders from the Managers
Managers want to feel important.
That doesn’t make them evil. It makes them human. We all have an ego, and we all want to feel important.
I remember getting my first management job — and the office that came with it. It was a highly visible sign of my importance. I was doing such important things that I sometimes needed to close my door. Ha! What a hoot. I can’t tell you a single thing of any import that happened behind my closed manager’s door all those years ago.
Still, it’s a very natural process that we have baked into the industrial age management paradigm. So, to live up to this aura of importance, managers have to play the part. What better way to accomplish that than to ensure that we are always busy. And multiply this across the management ranks with everyone requesting meetings, and the fact that if non-managers want to someday be managers, they need to model the behavior, and well, you get the idea.
But this paradigm has outlived its usefulness.
Whereas managers are programmed to need to feel important, authentic leaders are relentlessly focused on helping their teams accomplish important things.
This simple, yet stark difference drives a fundamentally different set of behaviors.
And the most notable of these is that real leaders are not only uninterested in appearing busy, they realize that busyness is, in fact, their enemy. Instead, leaders replace this busyness with a natural rhythm and reflex to periodically pause, reflect, and, if need be, redirect.
And the crazier the situation, the more often they will do so.
The Impact: The Digital Era Demands Leadership
Why does all of this matter?
The Industrial Age was all about building and running a vast machine — one in which many of the “parts” were humans. Therefore, it demanded management. We needed a way to keep all these humans in line.
Thriving in the Digital Era demands something entirely different. It requires that you unleash creativity, empathy, imagination, and innovation — it’s all about continual transformation.
Building and running the machine is still necessary, but there is no advantage in it. Instead, competitive differentiation comes from transforming your organization into a living organism that you can guide through a continually shifting landscape.
That demands leadership.
True leaders understand that this type of continual adaptation demands the exact opposite of a relentless focus on repeatedly executing hardened and rigid processes. Instead, it demands time and space to think, and the willingness to change direction as often as that changing landscape requires.
To create that time and space to think, therefore, authentic leaders will consistently pause, reflect, and redirect.
The Next Step: Pausing Together
As is often the case, I write these posts for me as much as anyone. This post is one of those cases, and I need to drink a bit of my own champagne.
I launched Your Digital Future at the beginning of this year. Little did I know how auspicious a 2020 launch would be!
I’m now six months and 25 issues into this experiment, and I’m realizing that while I’m just getting started, it’s time to do a little pausing, reflecting, and (maybe) redirecting of my own.
A shocking amount has changed in the past six months, and I need to give myself a little space to sort it out.
So, I’m going to take a little time off. I’m not sure just how long, but I promise to be back.
While I’m off, I’d like to ask your help in my reflecting process. If you’re reading this, I’m assuming you find it of at least some value. So, I’m hoping that you will be willing to post a comment below with some candid, honest-to-goodness feedback.
What do you like? What doesn’t work for you? What do you wish I’d do more or less of?
And, if you were talking to a friend, how would you describe Your Digital Future?
Please drop a comment and just let me have it! Write as much or as little as you’d like and offer any feedback you feel comfortable providing, however good or bad.
In the end, the only goal of this journal is to serve you. So it’s time to check-in and see how I’m doing.
In the meantime, I invite you to take a moment to pause, reflect, and maybe do a little bit of redirection in your own life. It’s always a great time to do so, and you may find it transformative.
Talk to you on the other side.
Founder & Institute Fellow
Charles Araujo is a technology analyst and internationally recognized authority on the Digital Enterprise and Leadership in the Digital Era who advises technology companies and enterprise leaders on how to navigate the transition from the Industrial Age to the Digital Era. Having spent over thirty years in the technology industry, he has been researching Digital Transformation long before it became the uber-buzzword of today, and is now focused on helping Digital Era Leaders prepare themselves and their organizations as the macro trends of the primacy of the customer and the primacy of the algorithm collide, ushering us into what he calls The New Human Age.
Principal Analyst with Intellyx, founder of The Institute for Digital Transformation, author of three books, and most recently the co-founder (with his wife) of The MAPS Institute, he is a sought-after keynote speaker and has been quoted or published in CIO, Time, InformationWeek, CIO Insight, NetworkWorld, Computerworld, USA Today, and Forbes.