The Top 3 Priorities of Leaders

Leaders Can’t Do It All and Shouldn’t. You lead the company. You don’t manage it. You lead it. Do I need to say it again? This fact implies we all know the difference between leadership and management. Truth is, we often don’t. Leadership seems fuzzier than it should be because those that managed us throughout our careers didn’t have it clarified for them either. While there are indeed a multitude of tasks leaders participate in, when it comes to leading a company, there are three critical items that should top every leader’s To Do list. (See earlier article on the top priorities for leading yourself.)

Job #1 for a leader:
Inspire and influence three specific areas: people, operations and strategy.

Without your inspiration, without your influence, the ship remains rudderless. Notice too, that my order is specific. People come first. Without humans, the right humans, being lead by you, nothing will get executed and your strategy will become obsolete. People are the backbone of your business. Strength trainers talk about building up muscle, fighting the aging process, and staying at your optimum health levels when you focus on your core, i.e. your back muscles, your abdominal muscles – all the muscles that keep you upright. People are your core. Strengthen them, build them, and they’ll keep your business upright and currently competitive.


  1. Role model good thinking. Share your thought process. Ask questions that get your direct reports to think.
  2. Coach. Spend time in one-to-ones, asking questions, solving complex issues, and getting your direct reports to engage in dialogue with you.
  3. Share your vision. Clearly. Repeatedly. In detail. Enthusiastically. Share it again next week.
  4. Conduct less formal performance reviews every quarter. Why wait until the end of the season to tell a player to change his motion?!

Job #2 for a leader:

A leader does not have time to set the compass for the organization’s direction, sit at the helm and scout the horizon, and go down to the galley to make tuna fish sandwiches for the crew. In all fairness, having lunch with the crew, is a great idea, making it for them is just not a good use of your time.


  1. What is your job? Inspiring and influencing people, operations, and strategy. Write down everything you currently are doing. Categorize it, prioritize it, and decide which tasks can be delegated immediately and which tasks need to be taught/coached more thoroughly so they can be fully delegated one month, two months, or three months from now.
  2. Assess every task you complete to determine if it’s necessary and aligned with your 4 focus areas and goals.  Got more than 4 focus areas? See the article on goals.

Job #3 for a leader:
Embody values.

What do you believe in and stand for? If the almighty dollar is your God, then hire people who embrace this value and get ready to ride the consequences.  If healthy results through good, thoughtful decisions, respect and integrity are the path you want your folks to walk, then walk the talk yourself. Influence and inspire through praise of good behaviors, role-model your values, interview for values, correct when you see the opposite, and keep your values ever present and visible. The brain thrives on visuals and imitates what it sees.


  1. Conduct a values assessment and determine your top 5. (These tools exist many places, including a free assessment from AKI). Have your executive team conduct the same assessment. Where do you all align and where do you differ? How can the similarities and differences be utilized to create an even stronger, valued based executive team?
  2. Praise your employees for thoughtful, values based decisions.
  3. Fire those who don’t foster nor contribute to your culture of values.

A leader does many things, and must do many things well to be successful, but those “many things” should be leadership tasks, not management tasks. And the first thing to do is to get focused on being a leader.

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