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Choosing Depth: How Effective Leaders Set Priorities

Updated: Jan 31

Leaders are bombarded with countless theories, methods, and styles that promise to be the key to successful leadership. From transformational to transactional, from gentle leadership to traditional leadership, the choices are plentiful.

Choosing a leadership style that suits a leader's personality and the company's culture can be a challenge in itself. However, a crucial nuance that is often overlooked is that even when a leader finds the "perfect" style that suits him or her, it does not automatically result in effective leadership.

The danger lies in confusing being busy with productivity, with effectively making progress. The essence of effective leadership goes much deeper than just the chosen style; it is about the ability to distinguish between what is really important and what is just noise, and to tailor all activities accordingly.

The Primary Differences Between Effective and Busy Leaders


Effective Leaders

Busy Leaders




Time management

Works on the most important things first

Tackles random tasks without prioritizing

Decision making

Makes informed decisions

Often rushed or delayed


Delegates effectively and trusts the team

Often holds things for himself


Clear and targeted

Often scattered or redundant


Often changing or unclear


Provides constructive feedback

Minimizes or avoids feedback


Regularly evaluates own performance

Spends little time on self-reflection

Team dynamic

Builds a collaborative and empowered team

Can micromanage or maintain control

The Fall of the Busy Leader

Leaders can sometimes be praised for their ability to be 'always on'. Early mornings, late nights, and weekends full of work-related activities are ‘normal’ to them. To many, this seems to be evidence of a dedicated leader, but this constant state of being busy can be treacherous.

First, the idea that “being busy” is synonymous with “being effective” can mislead leaders. A full agenda does not equal progress. In fact, a packed schedule can even be counterproductive, with leaders having so many tasks that they can't focus on tasks that really matter. They get caught in a web of meetings, emails, and other urgent but not necessarily important matters.

Furthermore, being constantly busy can lead to burnout. Without sufficient rest and reflection, leaders become exhausted, which can negatively impact their decision-making and effectiveness. They can lose sight of the bigger picture and get lost in the details, which detracts from their leadership skills.

In addition, the fall of the busy leader can also be harmful to their teams. If a leader is always busy, this can be a signal to the team that they also need to be constantly busy to be appreciated. This can lead to a toxic work culture in which overworking becomes the norm and where there is no room for work-life balance.

In essence, leaders must realize that constant busyness does not equal effectiveness. Real progress and effectiveness come from purposeful actions, prioritizing essential tasks, and taking enough rest to recharge and reflect.

Depth over Breadth: The Power of Focused Devotion

In a world that is constantly bombarded with information, new ideas, and endless possibilities, it is easy for leaders to become preoccupied with everything. The temptation can be to jump on every new idea or project in the hope that it is the 'next big breakthrough'. However, in this frantic race for breadth, the true value of depth can be overlooked.

Depth, in the context of leadership, is about a leader's ability to really delve into a particular area, issue, or project. It means taking the time to fully understand the nuances, details, and underlying principles. Where breadth can encourage superficiality and generalization, depth encourages mastery and expertise.

Some advantages of choosing depth over width:

Mastery: By focusing on a limited number of areas, leaders can become true experts in those areas. This enables them to make more informed decisions and provide more value to their organizations.

Quality over Quantity: Depth emphasizes the quality of work rather than quantity. This can lead to better results as the work is done thoroughly and thoughtfully.

Dishes energy: By focusing their energy on a limited number of areas, leaders can ensure they put their best effort where it counts most.