Where the Best Leaders Spend the Majority of Their Time

Do you know where great leaders spend the majority of their time?

The answer isn’t:

  • The Boardroom
  • The production line
  • A top business school
  • In front of customers
  • Or any other specific location

The answer is less of a “where” and more of a “when.”

Allow me to explain

Over the past 20+ years, I have worked with some fantastic leaders. As a global management consultant, I have had the opportunity to travel extensively throughout Europe, North America, and Asia.

My experience suggests that the best leaders spend the vast majority of their time being present in the present.

This may sound obvious.

It may even appear easy.

However, I invite you to consider your behavior. You are likely to find yourself physically located in one place but mentally engaged elsewhere.

Here are a few examples. You are:

  • Sitting in a meeting but continually grabbing your smartphone to check your email.
  • Eating dinner with loved ones but allowing your mind to wander back to the office repeatedly.
  • Holding a conversation with an employee but finding another pressing issue absorbing your attention.
  • Attempting to celebrate a win but worrying about the next challenge you face.

Do these scenarios, or others like them, sound familiar?

If so, know that you aren’t alone.

You have read less than 200 words in this post, but your mind has probably already traveled someplace else. The Statistic Brain Research Institute suggests that the average adult’s attention span is eight seconds; that’s less than the attention span of a goldfish.

No wonder we have so much trouble staying in the present.

Please be present right now and finish this post.

Don’t just read the words. Focus on them. Take inventory of yourself and vow to improve. Doing so may be time well spent.

Four considerations to help you to be present in the present.

1. Learn from the past; don’t dwell on it.

Your past is full of ups and downs. It contains things that went well and outcomes you wish you could change. Parts of it may be the source of frustration, disappointment, and embarrassment; other memories bring you pride, energy, and excitement.

Occasionally visiting the past is a good thing. You can use it to frame a situation, reflect on how a problem was resolved, or gain perspective. But only spend a little bit of time there.

Whether you scored the championship-winning touchdown or fumbled on the one-yard line, let the past go. Great leaders know they can’t change the past, so they don’t spend too much time there.

2. Plan for the future; don’t borrow trouble.

Yes, it’s important to create plans. It’s critical to consider alternatives, prepare for contingencies, and brainstorm through different scenarios. However, some planners go beyond the planning phase and begin to borrow trouble. They become anxious, fearful, and full of doubt.

Taken to an extreme, they assume failure before taking their first step.

Great leaders invest time in planning but don’t assume failure from the start. They know that that type of negative thought process is often self-fulfilling. If a great leader thinks something is destined for failure, they either devise a new plan or quickly cut their losses.

3. Craft a vision; don’t live in the clouds.

Every leadership book discusses the importance of vision. They echo the common idea that great leaders help their organization determine its purpose and then cast a vision for the future.

As important as it is to craft a vision, communicate with clarity, and gain enthusiasm around the direction, visioning in and of itself is insufficient. Great leaders spend purposeful time crafting a vision for the future but return to the present as quickly as possible because they know that the present is where life happens.

4. Take action; don’t wait for things to come to you.

Great leaders are proactive people. While some people prepare themselves and wait for the opportunity to rise, great leaders, act as an opportunity catalyst. They create opportunities for themselves and their organization.

Being present is a vital part of the opportunity creation process. Leaders who are present engage all of their senses. They listen with the intent of understanding. They watch things unfold. They sniff out opportunities. In short, they are fully engaged.

This Week’s Questions

  1. When was the last time you realized that you weren’t present in the moment?
  2. What might you have missed or failed to contribute?
  3. What could you do in the future to be present in the moment?

This Week’s Challenge

Take two minutes to be present in the present. Capture what came to mind.