The leader of an organization sets the tone for the people within the company. The leader will set the expectations for attitude, competence, conflict management, and work ethic. I have watched many leaders develop healthy organizations only to watch them deteriorate because the leader stopped doing the things that created a great company. One of the areas I have seen this happen frequently is in the area of work ethic.
A leader will work hard to build a business. His employees witness his work ethic and they follow his lead by working hard as well. However, as the company begins to succeed the leader will get complacent. He will quit doing the difficult or unpleasant aspects of his job. He will leave early and come in late. He will avoid tasks that are unfamiliar or require a greater effort to master. His employees see his example and begin to do the same thing. Eventually profits suffer and the company loses its edge.
One of the character traits a leader must embrace is diligence. Diligence is the willingness to work hard and complete “the race.” A leader finishes strong; he doesn’t limp to the finish line. Here are a few suggestions to help you develop diligence in your leadership.
- Clarify areas of authority and responsibility. In order to be diligent, leaders must be fully aware of their realm of authority and responsibilities. They need to make sure there are no gray areas so they can fulfill their duties with confidence. Clarity promotes diligence. Make sure everyone in your organization clearly knows their roles and responsibilities through job descriptions and written expectations.
- Plan thoroughly. Set goals and objectives for yourself. Think through exactly which tasks you need to accomplish and give yourself completion dates for each. Periodically review your progress. Good leaders consistently produce good results because they plan well.
- Manage your time. Don’t allow time to manage you. Diligent leaders effectively organize their time, as well as use that time productively. Set aside time for administrative tasks, returning phone calls, emails, and other tasks that need to be accomplished. Do not be late to appointments. Begin and end meetings on time. Don’t make others pay for your lack of diligence. The extra effort needed to manage your time will pay off in huge dividends.
- Be a detail person. Leaders are big picture people, but even big picture people have to manage some details. A lack of focus on details is the difference between success and failure. Hire a great administrative assistant and let that person hold you accountable for the details that will make you successful.
- Know your strengths and weaknesses. Diligence requires that you know what you are good at and what you are not. Most leaders are good motivators but poor managers. Be honest with yourself. Get feedback from peers and direct reports as to your strengths and weaknesses. You want to spend the majority of your time developing your strengths, but reality is that you will have to function in your weaknesses at times. Embrace that reality; don’t run from it.
- Embrace the one thing that is hardest or least desirable. Leaders often greatly struggle to accomplish tasks they find undesirable. However, as we embrace the tasks that are hard or undesirable, we strengthen our character and build diligence through responsibility. Do not give yourself permission to avoid the difficult task; embrace the task and knock it out early so it doesn’t hang over your head.
- Overcome procrastination. Most people procrastinate. Diligent people do the hard work today. When leaders put off until tomorrow what they could have done today, they often miss windows of opportunity. Seize every moment of your day and refuse to put important tasks off.
These simple steps will help you build the character of diligence in your life. Diligence will pay huge dividends in the areas of work ethic in your organization and long-term continued productivity in your workplace.