Leading people is labour intensive; popping the bubble of the 4-hour work week

Leading people is labour intensive and not always glamorous

Leading people is labour intensive and not always glamorous

Earlier this week I put another episode of This I have learnt™ in the ‘can’

The aim of the series is to provide useful, practical insight from successful individuals who have had satisfying, productive and (often) lucrative careers.

Another key aim to engage with people who have had ‘attainable’ success, who lead a lifestyle and career within the reach of those who are gifted, committed, and hard-working.  Already I'm starting to see a gap between 'internet-life' (how we are told we should be living) vs 'real-life' (what actually goes on.)

Obviously some may wish to emulate a Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, or even a Jack Welch. But they would have to replicate the freakish circumstances in which the freakish (or more kindly, outlier) aspects of their personalities where able to flourish centre-stage. Of course, once you have a billion-in-the-bank, it seems others will tolerate freakish behaviours which would cause the rest of us to fold up our tent and camp elsewhere. 

It will not stop some from attributing cause-and-effect between behaviours and achievement. No doubt there are mini-Steve’s in the work place (without his talent or the resources), following Jobs’ bean curd-only diet, neglecting to shower, throwing tantrums, and finishing their 55-slide powerpoint presentation on Q2 sales forecasts of garage door openers in South-Western Ohio with, “Oh, and no more thing.” Read and learn from the (authorised) biographies of business celebrities by all means, but stay grounded.

I was reminded of the gap between the portrayed and the actual lives of leaders earlier this week.

In the morning I attended a presentation by prominent business academic who proposed that a ‘good’ CEO can do his or her work in 4 hours a week. The follow-on implication being that if you can’t, then you’re a bad CEO. In the afternoon, I interviewed a CEO who had implemented two major change programmes in two large organisations, who described leading people as the most time-demanding, crucial, component in any change management programme.

The internet is replete with schemes on ‘how to have a four-hour work week.’ Usually the authors are heading up a pyramid distribution network, or selling vitamin supplements via virtual store, or taking many hours to travel around the world selling their marketing materials on ‘how to have a four-hour work week.’

Few of these evangelists are, if any, running large organisations staffed by a large volume of human beings. And here’s why:

Leading people is a labour-intensive. 

If your strategy requires a shift in corporate culture, know that you are in for an exciting, sapping, thrilling 3 years of herding cats, dogs, hamsters (and all the requisite or inherited species). You will be repeating, stopping, modifying, pushing, pulling, hiring and firing and generally pulling your hair, as you try keep your organisation focused on the primary goal for the change.

To quote one CEO, “For the period of a big change, there is no work-life balance. The sooner you admit that and seek the support of your family, the better everything is. Why? Because, realistically, your workday starts when everyone else has finished. Don’t fool yourself that it can be any other way.”

The activity of leading people has to be a passion. If it isn’t, stay away.