Leadership Thought #454 – Be Careful About Taking On Too Much

October 18, 2013

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Leaders must avoid taking on too much.

There is a wise old saying “If you want to get something done, give it to a busy person.” In my experience, this is an accurate depiction of how families, organizations, and communities’ work.  The “Type A” person will always assume the most responsibility and be the hub of critical activity.  Other people tend to rely on them and their boundless energy for execution.  Unfortunately, if you are not careful, over time this dynamic also ends up becoming dysfunctional and unhealthy.

There is a point of diminishing returns when someone extends themselves beyond their individual capability to do what needs doing.  We each only have so much bandwidth to apply to our responsibilities.  What starts out as a promising idea ends up becoming a burden for the party responsible, creating unrealistic expectations for those dependent upon that person’s efforts.   The energy and focus will gravitate towards what is not being done and who is to blame rather than on the best way to best move forward.  Sadly, we end up becoming disconnected and resentful over what connected us in the first place.

Most of us in leadership positions need to say “no” more often than we currently do.  Instead of always taking on more, we need to learn to let go and take on less.  I have seen many talented individuals buckle under the weight of their own self-imposed pressures.  There is always a price to pay for over-commitment.  Ironically, the people and things that require most of our attention end up taking a backseat to lesser priorities and other distractions.  The gap between what we want and what we are getting only widens, and eventually some form of a breakdown usually occurs.

It is always advisable to do a few things well rather than doing too many things in an okay or mediocre fashion.  Activity is never a good substitute for results.  We are defined not just by what we do, but by what we achieve and how this aligns with what we truly value.  Be careful about taking on too much and losing sight of what is most important in the process.