In a culture that values instant everything and struggles waiting for anything, shortcuts are all the rave. Hack has even become a buzzword for taking shortcuts, maximizing time, and getting things done more quickly. “Hack your schedule.” “Hack your calendar.” “Hack your leadership meeting.” “Hack your life.”
I am not against all hacking as some shortcuts are, of course, helpful and beneficial. For example, if a work process could be executed in four steps without losing any quality, then there is no need to make it six. By all means, take that shortcut. But there are some shortcuts leaders should never take. And we must be careful that our obsession with efficiency does not steer us away from effectiveness. Much of effective leadership takes time and offers no shortcuts. Here are three areas in which leaders should never take shortcuts:
1. Developing credibility
A world of platforms has exasperated the reality that people can quickly work to develop an external brand that outpaces their internal character. Tragically, leaders can plan their image while haphazardly planning their own development. Credibility, for a leader, is the result of sustained integrity over long periods of time. Attempts to shortcut credibility will inevitably cause people to act in ways that are inconsistent with reality.
2. Clarifying mission
Leaders know that organizations and ministries long for a clear and compelling mission that defines them and gives significance to all the activity. But clarifying and communicating mission takes an investment of time and energy. It takes time to listen, to learn the culture, to understand opportunities, to develop language alongside others, and to articulate a direction. A microwaved mission rarely grabs people because it lacks the leader’s conviction. And a photocopied mission, something a leader reads elsewhere, rarely moves people because it lacks context. Leaders must not take shortcuts in developing, declaring, and defending mission.
3. Developing others
Leadership development is a long, arduous process. Developing others is one of a leader’s prime responsibilities, but the fruit of the work is often not revealed for years. Thus, leaders who are attracted to shortcuts will inevitably neglect developing others.
Don’t hack leadership development. Don’t hack clarifying mission. And don’t hack developing your credibility.