Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair reminisced, at a 2012 event at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, how easy it is to get so absorbed by the pressures of doing that you rarely ever disentangle yourself from the chock-full of activities and the clutter that can choke strategic thinking.
As the leader of the Opposition, when I went to see him in 1996 at the White House, he explained that one of the hardest things when you get into the government is finding the time to think strategically. It’s being able to create the space so that you’re focused on what you really know counts because otherwise, he said, the system will take you over. You’ll be in meetings from 8:00 in the morning till 10:00 at night, and you think you’re immensely busy, but the tactics and the strategy have all got mixed.
What happens in leadership is that things come at you the whole time. If you’re not careful, you’ll spend your time dealing with one situation after another. You lose your strategic grip on what’ll determine if you’re a successful government. Many of these crises are real, and you must deal with them. But when you judge your government in history, no one will remember any of them. You’ve got to create the space to be thinking strategically all the time to change the world.
Idea for Impact: It’s your strategic thinking, more than any other single activity, that can influence what you’ll achieve as a leader. Find ways to create more “head time” amid the busyness.