How often do you hear from your first line and middle leaders ‘I don’t have enough time’ as a response to questions about delivery or people activities? It is the most common response I get when exploring and challenging people’s thinking around effective leadership. It is worth trying to understand what might be causing this in your leaders to help them become more effective leaders. Being genuinely too busy is rarely the core issue.

Not understanding priorities

How well are the organisational, department and team objectives understood by your leaders? If these are not known, how do they know what work to focus on and when? Being able to identify and prioritise theirs and the team’s objectives will enable all parties to deliver the right things at the right time. Knowing priorities allows the planning process to begin.

Poor planning

A to do list is not a plan, it’s a list of things! Few leaders actually allow themselves quality time away from the team to properly plan. Planning is about looking ahead weeks and month’s, prioritising deliverables, planning team development. Poor planning results in leaders staying in a tactical mode, focusing on shorter term wins, without looking at what’s ahead. This leads to their thinking and behaviours remaining in doing mode, which interferes with employees work and performance.

Lack of clarity of the leadership role

Many ‘leaders’ don’t actually know what it means to lead, how it is different from management. And how it is different from being an embedded member of the team. What does it mean to lead people and work? Many don’t know what the expectations are of their senior managers of them. Without these clear pictures, a manager is never going to be able to show the effective leadership their team needs.

Poor self management and lack of skills

Leaders can be very ineffective with how they plan, approach and carry out their work. Many aren’t aware of the skills or tools that can make a difference to their situation. Again, taking time to examine what they need to do, and consider how they will do this will pay dividends. Researching a range of simple models and tools can provide quick changes to personal leadership effectiveness.

Need for control

Leaders can feel that they need to be in control of everything that their people are doing, even on occasion doing it for them. This is a common issue. Leaders think it is appropriate to micro manage in order to know what’s going on. Its ok to be ‘on top’ of what is happening, but not to control. There’s a difference. Effective leadership lessons, not tightens control. Coaching here can bring about rapid changes.


Putting off or ignoring the situation, hoping it will go away is not a healthy approach. There will always be more work coming around the corner. A common phrase is ‘when this project is completed they will have more time’. Sadly something will always come in to fill the gap left by completed work. Leaders who procrastinate are taking comfort in a false picture. Explore to understand causes of procrastination.

Not saying no

Many leaders feel obliged to take on more work. Whether to prove themselves, unable to say no or influence those giving the work. This is unhealthy and will impact on their mental health. Effective leadership is being able to negotiate work and timeframes for them and their teams. Having a culture where it is ok to challenge workload is important for all parties.

Looking for others to change the situation

It is common when feeling overwhelmed by work, that someone might come and change the situation for these leaders. Hoping someone will provide the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’. This can be overt or subtle. Perhaps in the form of disguised regular questions about how you as the leader might go about improving things. Keenly observing leaders will help to show which leaders might be struggling. As a leader, the business is employing and expecting them to bring around personal change.

Your leadership style and expectations

As the senior leader in the business you create the culture and performance expectations for your leaders. The wrong language, leadership and coaching style and culture will impact upon your leader’s ability to perform and deliver for you. If this is the case, they are unlikely to call you out on it, so you need to get some feedback from them.

You need your leaders to be effective in their roles and for their teams, every day. Their effective leadership starts with their own approaches to their own work. Often these leaders don’t know how to get ‘off the treadmill’ of ineffectiveness, leading to a wide impact on others. Being able to recognise, call out and coach your leaders will lead to radical personal change.

If you are interested in learning how to develop your leaders to become more effective contact us today at Abintus. We work with senior leaders to help them coach and train their reports to become performing leaders.