Causes of Leadership Failure – Inability to Organize Details

Details MatterEfficient leadership calls for ability to organize and to master details. Ho genuine leader is ever “too busy” to do anything which may be required as a leader. When a leader or follower is “too busy” to change plans or give attention to any emergency, it is an indication of inefficiency. The successful leader must be the master of all details connected with the position. That means, of course, that the habit of delegating details to capable lieutenants must be acquired. – Napoleon Hill

“That’s not in my job description!” Whether said jokingly, half-seriously, or an adamant statement of defiance, those are familiar words to many. More importantly, the sentiment is one many share. Whether we say it outright or keep the thoughts to ourselves, the feeling that a certain assignment or task isn’t our responsibility is common…but generally not for a leader.

As noted by Napoleon Hill, an essential for successful leadership is mastery of details. Nothing is too little, too difficult, or too worrisome for a true leader when it comes to accomplishing a predetermined goal. Maybe that’s why he listed this as the first cause of leadership failure. What does this mean for a leader? Is it necessary for him or her to take care of everything? After all, doesn’t the old maxim state, “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself?” Let’s take Mr. Hill’s words above and examine them more closely.

A Leader is Never “Too Busy”

Don’t misunderstand; leaders are busy. However, when it comes to accomplishing an assigned task or reaching a specific goal, there’s no room for being “too busy” for even the smallest detail necessary for completing your objective. Those details fall in the job description, no matter how much you wish otherwise. As stated above, a true leader makes time to do anything required in connection with the task at hand. This is extremely important when plans change or emergencies arise – and let’s face it: plans do change and emergencies will arise. Still, not everything qualifies as an emergency, nor should plans change frivolously. Therefore, to avoid leadership failure, a necessary skill is learning to distinguish between what’s necessary and what isn’t. That way, you can focus on the former and either delegate, delay, or dismiss the latter.

This leaves us with an important question: How can you tell the difference between the two? In an article on entitled Learn the Difference Between Urgent and Important, Whitson Gordon shared an interesting perspective on the matter. Quoting one of their readers, he said: “Almost all of those Urgent items are things that are interruptions that we react to and not things we have chosen to act on. I think that is the biggest difference. Too often we spend time reacting instead of acting. And I think that is where we most mess up our lives.” Therefore, if something interrupts your activity but isn’t directly related to your goal, put it on hold until a time you set to deal with those matters. Meanwhile, continue focused on the important tasks at hand.

Some might argue, “Isn’t an urgent matter an important one?” It’s true that one definition of urgent involves something requiring immediate attention. Yet it’s more often defined as an earnest solicitation or an insistent request. Therefore, while attempting to command your attention, an urgent issue isn’t necessarily an important one, requiring you to stop what you’re doing and address it. Understanding and embracing that distinction allows you to focus on important matters and their attendant details in a manner that assures you complete them.

Leaders Know how to Delegate

No one can do everything. You may not have the necessary skills to tackle certain tasks. More often, however, you simply don’t have the time. Therefore the effective leader learns to delegate properly. Delegation is a deliberate act. You assign tasks to those best suited to complete them, and monitor their progress (Note: Monitoring is completely different from micromanaging). To do this, you need the following:

  • An in-depth understanding of the required task(s)
  • Knowledge of the person’s capabilities that receives the assignment
  • An effective method for tracking progress

Success depends on learning to delegate and properly monitor your team

Naturally, this takes a certain amount of forethought. You’re not simply abdicating authority but assigning a task to a capable person. Thus, you have to think about what needs doing and in what time-frame it needs completion. Then, considering those with whom you work, pick a person who can complete the assignment on time. That’s challenging. Here’s an additional (and perhaps more difficult) challenge: You must design a method for tracking that person’s progress. Since you likely didn’t have time to complete the delegated assignment and the other aspects of the project yourself, you certainly don’t want to spend all your time following up with each person to whom you delegated tasks. That’s just as bad (if not worse) than trying to do it all yourself! Yet you must follow-up. If not, you won’t know the status of the overall project, and you certainly won’t master the projects details.

How can you avoid micromanaging while still keeping necessary tabs on progress? In an article featured on the Tech Republic website, Peter Woolford discusses this topic. After discussing how to tell if you’re micromanaging, he suggests making a thorough list of what you inspect and to what extent. Are there items on the list you need not monitor? For example, are there things on the list that your team always gets right? Then spend your time focusing on areas in which they’re weak. The real question is: Do you trust them enough to do the things you know they do well?

All teams need monitoring. The key is to monitor the areas where they fall short. Sure, you’re still responsible for the whole ball of wax. Yet constantly inspecting things you know they can and will handle does no one any good. It all comes down to trust. When you monitor every move of those for whom you’re responsible, you’re essentially saying you don’t trust them to do the job correctly. That creates an environment which stifles creativity and productivity. Therefore strike a balance between the need to effectively manage details and giving your people enough room to accomplish a task. Doing say often leads to surprisingly innovative results.

Are you a master of details? Do you micromanage? How can you change your management style to help you better handle all the details of your projects without stifling your team? Leave your replies in the Comments below.


13 thoughts on “Causes of Leadership Failure – Inability to Organize Details

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