What are your Leadership Priorities?

Recently I received an email from a friend that contained an illustration I had heard before, but which, for some reason, got me to thinking a little differently this time.  The email said:

“$86,400 — Something to Think About!

Imagine that you had won the following prize in a contest: Each morning your bank would deposit $86,400.00 in your private account for your use.

However, this prize has rules, just as any game has certain rules.

The first set of rules: Everything that you didn’t spend during each day would be taken away from you.  You may not simply transfer money into some other account.  You may only spend it.  Each morning upon awakening, the bank opens your account with another $86,400.00 for that day.

The second set of rules: The bank can end the game without warning; at any time, it can say, it’s over, the game is over!  It can close the account and you will not receive a new one.

What would you personally do?  You would buy anything and everything you wanted, right?  Not only for yourself, but for all people you love, right?  Even for people you don’t know, because you couldn’t possibly spend it all on yourself, right?  You would try to spend every cent, and use it all, right?

ACTUALLY, this GAME is REALITY!  Each of us is in possession of such a magical bank. We just can’t seem to see it.  The MAGICAL BANK is TIME!

Each morning we awaken to receive 86,400 seconds as a gift of life, and when we go to sleep at night, any remaining time is NOT credited to us.  What we haven’t lived up that day is forever lost.  Yesterday is forever gone.

Each morning the account is refilled, but the bank can dissolve your account at any time…. WITHOUT WARNING.

SO, what will YOU do with your 86,400 seconds? Aren’t they worth so much more than the same amount in dollars?”

Receiving that email answered the question that was racing through my mind: “what would make a good topic for this month’s Contemplation Corner?”  All leaders have demands upon their time.  Leaders never advance to a point where they no longer need to prioritize. While the most effective leaders understand that one thing that contributes to their effectiveness is the ability to prioritize how they use their time, some leaders never practice the discipline of prioritization.  

In his book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John C. Maxwell, suggest that there are 3 reasons some people never learn to prioritize.  Those are:

  • When we are busy, we naturally believe that we are achieving; however, busyness does not equal productivity. Activity is not necessarily accomplishment.
  • Prioritization is hard work.  It requires us to continually think ahead, to know what’s important, to know what’s next and to see how everything relates to the overall vision of the organization. 
  • Prioritization causes us to do things that are uncomfortable and somethings painful. 

As Leaders, we need to make sure that we are spending our time on the things that produce results. In the chapter on “The Law of Priorities, Maxwell discusses the two tools he uses to prioritize how he spends his time.  The first tool is the Pareto Principle (which is often referred to as the 80/20 rule).  Some examples of this principle are:

  • 20 % of your employees cause 80% of your personnel problems,
  • 20% of time expended produces 80% of your results,
  • 20% of your newspaper contains 80% of the news
  • 20% of what you do produces 80% of what you produce.

As leader’s we need to take a look at what we do, and which 20% of what we do produces the most results. 

Perhaps, we should learn from the “Parable of the Woodcutter.” In this parable. two woodcutters were competing against each other as to who could chop down the most trees in a day. Both started hacking away within earshot of each other. After an hour, Jim stopped. Joe was puzzled but carried on chopping. 

Five minutes later, he could again hear the swing of Jim’s axe. Another hour went by, and Jim again seemed to stop chopping for a few minutes. Joe was thrilled. He became more confident that he would win. So, he kept chopping away, pausing now and again to wipe away the perspiration from his forehead. Jim’s “start and stop” continued for the rest of the day, and Joe’s delight grew. 

At the end of the day, however, Joe was surprised to discover that Jim had felled more trees. He went to Jim and asked, “How can this be? I never stopped chopping once but you kept taking a break!” 

“Yes, but I stopped to sharpen my axe,” Jim replied. 

A small investment of time doing the right thing can have big rewards.

The second tool Maxwell uses to evaluate his priorities is “does it comply with the 3 R rule?” Maxwell’s three Rs are requirement, return, and reward.  I think his 3 Rs are worth exploring.

Requirement – Everyone is accountable to someone for the work we do.  Everyone also has responsibility for the

important people in their lives, such as a spouse, children, and parents.  The question we need to ask “What must I do that no one else can or should do for me?  If we are doing something that is necessary, but not required of us personally, maybe we should delegate that. 


Return – As a leader, you should spend most of your time working in your areas of greatest strength.  In Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton’s Now, Discover Your Strength, which is a result of their extensive research on the topic, they point out that people are more productive and more content when their work is within their natural gifting and strengths.  Maxwell says, “Ideally, leaders should get out of their comfort zone, but stay in their strength zone” and says that if someone else cane do something 80% as well as he can, he delegates the task to them.  He says that just because you can do something does not mean you should do it.

Reward – As a leader, we should do the things in which we find the most satisfaction. Tim Redmond, president of Redmond Leadership Institute has pointed out “there are many things that will catch my eye, but there are only a few things that will catch my heart.”  Those are the things we should be doing.   What is your passion.  That is the thing you should be doing.  Those are the things that energize you and provide the fuel for what you do. 

When you finish reading this column, ask yourself, “what is required of me?”, “what gives me the greatest return?” and “what brings the greatest reward?”  Then make a list of the things you do that do not fit into one of those categories.  Those are the things you need to delegate or eliminate.

Now, what are your priorities?

What Are Your Leadership Priorities

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