Efficiency is the Wrong Mindset for a Leader

Susan S Freeman Blog

This week’s Step Up Leader Tip borrows from “Leading Blog.” It’s relevant because leaders are often caught in the drive for “more, greater, faster,” believing that efficiency can be extracted through pushing harder. This may be applicable to factory work, but rarely works when applied to the complex team-oriented environment today’s leaders face.

My experience with clients supports the thesis of this article; that any efficiency we experience comes from relationships with people.

Efficiency flourishes when relationships are cultivated.

Efficiency

“Efficiency always seems like the right answer. It’s reflexive. Faster. Easier. Who doesn’t want that?

And yet while efficiency is critical and often a competitive advantage, it is a problem when it becomes a mindset that is applied to everything we do; when it becomes an excuse for our lack of real connection. Faster and easier is not always better. As leaders, we have to know the difference. Some things are better over time. There is no such thing as efficient leadership. If efficiency is digital, leadership is analog.

Leadership is about influence and mobilizing people to achieve a common goal. This is done through relationships. Relationships do not benefit from efficiency.

Much of the practice of leadership is a process. If you rush the process you miss the fundamental issues that create meaning and engagement. Leaders are action oriented people to be sure. Holding another meeting, having critical conversations, and reinforcing commitments, principles and values, can seem like a waste of time especially when you see the goal and the need to get moving so clearly. But if you don’t take the time to do these things, you may end up on your own—leading no one. Leadership does not exist until we create a relationship with another person. It is our relationships that result in the actions we seek.

The efficiency—quality and flexibility—you get from people is primarily based on the relationship you have with them. Creating partners takes time. Distributing ownership takes time. The idea is to build relationships so that people in your sphere of influence, flourish.

Growth is rarely an efficient affair. It’s almost never a straight line. People have emotions, feelings and history and that takes time to understand and work with. If we are to grow and learn and innovate we have to leave room for the inefficient. Growth is born in the question. Efficiency rarely leaves room for questions. It is a tension that has to be managed. We have to learn to maximize efficiency without restricting growth.

We know when it comes to people, better doesn’t always mean faster. Easier isn’t always the best way. But if we approach the practice of leadership with an efficiency-based mindset, we will look for shortcuts through a process that necessarily requires time and patience. The straight line can miss so much. The crooked path often adds the depth and color to our life that we can’t get in any other way.

Good relationships cultivated over time, will bring you the level of commitment you want when you need it the most. If you haven’t taken the time to build relationships all you have is a gun. Take the time now to build trusting, caring relationships with the people you serve.”

We invite you to post your comments here. Creating resilient, connected leaders who can transform their relationships is our specialty.

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