Is Leadership Your Full-Time or Part-Time Job?

“When am I going to find time to lead?”

I get this question a lot during leadership development programs. As I explain how the job of being a leader keeps growing, some people can’t see how they’ll be able to do it. But anyone who’s asking that question doesn’t really understand what it means to be a leader.

When I push people on this point, they usually say something like this: “I have this important job, and I have to spend most of my time getting through my long to-do list. When I have a little free time, I can fit in some ‘leadership stuff.’”

These leaders have it all wrong. They’re looking at the “leadership stuff” as somehow being separate from the functional aspects of their job. But the reality is that leadership should be the lens through which you view everything you do.

I’m working with a client in the financial services industry that is struggling with this issue. They’ve invested heavily in developing their leaders, and they’ve made improving their leadership a priority. But their leaders still believe the primary focus of their jobs is to oversee the lending process and secure as many loans as possible. Leadership, including people management, comes second, and only when they’ve got some time in their calendar. As a result, this organization has a lot of what I call “part-time leaders” who are only putting on their leadership hats a few times a week. And it’s setting them back as an organization.

The leaders of this organization need to recognize that leadership is the center of their roles. It’s not that those to-do lists aren’t important--they are, but they should be viewed through the leadership lens first. The people in this organization need to be wearing the leadership hat 100% of the time. They must become full-time leaders.

So what are you – a full time or part time leader?