How Productivity Elevates Your Leadership

Leadership has a funny way of putting you in positions that stretch and expand you. If you haven't had that experience, hang on. It's coming. Just like there are seasons of growth and seasons of momentum, there are also seasons of reflection and resets.

I believe life and leadership operate in cycles. Each phase prepares and ushers you into the next. Since a leader never arrives at a point of perfection, the process constantly challenges you to growth and development. Leadership is not something to be conquered as much as it is a lifestyle to adopt.

When you're stuck, it means something likely needs to change within you and your leadership to start moving forward again. This is a telling sign that growth is already taking place within you. The key is to become aware of these moments and give yourself space to think in new ways and consider new or different approaches with the hope of unlocking the potential that is right in front of you.


Teaching your children how to drive is not for the faint of heart. Even if you give them a pass on learning how to drive a stick shift, it still seems to be one of those experiences that relate you in one moment and nearly sends you over the edge in the next. One of the most important lessons I tried to convey to each of my children is this: Driving is a series of course corrections.

Leadership is a lot like that, too. You must expect and anticipate to adjust over time. You are always tweaking, adjusting, and adapting to ensure you are optimized for growth and success. It's never ending. And this is precisely why productivity is so critical leadership.


  • Focus your mind. When you know what's most important, you know where you spend your energy.
  • Provide a criterion to determine how to process what is coming at you. Everything can't be urgent and important.
  • Give you permission to say no or yes based on a variety of factors. There is a tremendous freedom in knowing what to say yes and no to in the heat of the moment.
  • Enable you to move forward with confidence. You must have a way to process what’s coming at you and decide to act, delay, delegate, or disregard.

Without productivity, nothing gets done. Or worse, you try to do everything which never works out. Do you know what happens when you have one foot on the dock and one foot on the boat? Eventually, you lose balance and fall in the water.


  • Your conversations. If you aren't clear, your team won't be either. That will diffuse energy across good people rather than focusing energy toward a common goal.
  • Your coaching. If you're putting the right things in the right order, then you know how to help each member of your team grow.
  • Your assessments and measures. There is a popular leadership principle that surmises what gets done are the things which are measured.
  • Your planning. Sometimes delaying an activity or objective until later frees up your time, creativity, and energy to focus on what's most important today. This can have a rippling effect across your team.
  • Your results. When you predetermine what needs to be done, you are much more likely to deliver on the things you say are most important. This is critical for your leadership.


I'm intrigued how the minimalist movement is asking people to reconsider if more is fundamentally better. While I'm not interested in learning how to live in 95 square feet, I’m interested in stripping away the unnecessary parts of my days, weeks, and months to make sure I can deliver on the commitments I've made to myself, my team, my board, and the University at large.

When I was younger, I never wanted to prune anything from my goals or life. I believed that doing so would make my world smaller. Then I realized, like many leaders do, that such thinking is naive. The older and more experienced I become as a leader, the more I realize clarity and focus naturally identify the excess in my life. It's up to me to determine what to do with that.

Excess is the root benefit of productivity in leadership. It's about identifying what needs to be shifted, removed, or eliminated entirely to ensure your share of mind, energy, and effort are channeled to the things, people, and opportunities which will have a material impact on your ability to achieve your leadership goals. It's a paradox of sorts. To gain, you must let go.

There is a lot of comfort in being busy as a leader. Sometimes it can feel like you are a mile wide and an inch deep. The temptation is to get too far into the details and lose the altitude necessary to keep seeing what's ahead so you can continue to inspire others to dream big and achieve great things. But you must resist that temptation on all fronts. 

Control and comfort are an illusion that stand in the way of your leadership development. Growth and success are anything but things you can control and or expect to make you comfortable. That's what adventure is all about—taking you beyond what you think is possible.

While productivity isn't a magic formula and certainly doesn't guarantee success, it provides an approach to help you keep moving forward without getting sidetracked and stuck along the way. Productivity will elevate your leadership if you commit yourself to it. It won't happen overnight, but you will see its impact over time in how it shapes your thinking, commitments, and capacity to deliver substantive results that have a meaningful and material impact on you, the people you lead, and organization you represent.

CHALLENGE: Where is the excess in your day? What is holding you back from getting rid of the things holding you back? How can you adapt to the changing realities of your life to ensure you regularly course correct and stay on track for success?