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For CEOs and Executive leaders

By Randal Godden
How do we as leaders balance the time we spend on functional, management and leadership roles and responsibilities.

How much time should an executive spend on leadership?

The three roles played by executive leaders.

As business leaders we are always confronted by the challenge of splitting our energies between three broad areas: functional, management and leadership activities.

1. The functional role at executive level.

The functional activities are essential elements within every business and include specialist roles such as accountants, lawyers, engineers, sales representatives and IT specialists, to name a few.

While most business executives and entrepreneurs originally specialised in one of those disciplines, a significant challenge is to strike the correct balance between using your specialist skill as a strength and allocating sufficient time and effort to the management and leadership roles.

2. The management role at executive level.executive-roles

The management role ensures the necessary policies, systems and structures are put in place to ensure that the business delivers on its promise to customer and stakeholders. It is about measuring and monitoring outcomes against those policies, systems and structures, and taking appropriate action where actual results vary from the required standard.

For example, if there is a shortfall, how do we “course correct” or, if there is an improvement, how do we entrench the enhanced performance as our new standard? But, management is fundamentally about ensuring that our current activities are in line with our agreed purpose and satisfies the current needs of customer and stakeholders.

3. The leadership role at executive level.

The leadership role, on the other hand, is about the future, and is concerned with the strategy for the business, building relationships and developing alliances and partnerships with stakeholders, not just customers.

While customers are vital, leaders must also consider the alliance possibilities with other stakeholders, including employees, suppliers, financiers, shareholders, business associates and the community.

How to determine the appropriate split between the 3 leadership roles.

To ensure the appropriate focus, plan your activities starting with leadership priorities, then management issues. Leave functional activities until last.

The first challenge for most of us as managers and leaders is to determine the appropriate split between the three roles.

The second, and usually greater challenge, is determining how to ensure that our actual time and effort allocation is consistent with role requirements. Too often we spend the bulk of out time on functional activities and perhaps management, with leadership receiving scant attention and only if there is time. And, if time does become available, it is not planned or focused and thus less effective.

To ensure the appropriate focus, plan your activities starting with leadership priorities, then management issues. Leave functional activities until last. This will require true delegation of functional responsibilities according to appropriate skill levels in these functional areas and will also preclude a compression of duties.

Managers and leaders need to undertake this process to effectively perform their role. In larger organizations where a manager or leader finds limitations in one or more areas, they should find an appropriate role for the person, assuming they are contributors. Bill Gates, for example, is a classical role model. Recognizing that he was not the best CEO, he stepped aside to enhance the business’ success.

In owner operator businesses it is more challenging if the entrepreneurial element is at odds with the management and/or leadership elements. Owner operators can endeavor to change, but usually with limited success. The alternative is to bring in people to complement their weaker areas, either as employees, managers or partners, or perhaps find external assistance, particularly in terms of leadership focus and guidance.

For any organization to be successful over time it is essential that the leaders achieve an appropriate balance between functional, management and leadership roles and responsibilities.

Randal Godden

Randal Godden is an Ex-CFO and CEO of a company involved in construction, wholesale and retail. The company employed 3000 people and had 200 branches.

In his career he has been a director of every function of the company including finance, sales, manufacturing, distribution, marketing, HR and IT.

He now works as a mentor to CEO's and functional heads. Read his profile and other articles.

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