If there is one competency that separates a leader from a manager, it is this one: the ability to maintain a forward focus and organize change to facilitate it. There are a thousand things that compete for our attention (well, maybe not a thousand but it can seem like it).
And there are a thousand problems that need to be solved, phone calls to be returned, people to see, and agenda items to be completed.
But superlative leaders have one focus, even if it must compete for their attention. They maintain a forward focus and evaluate everything, EVERYTHING, against that.
Managers don’t. It is their job to manage day to day numbers. It is their job to make sure processes run smoothly and productively (according to numbers).
But it is the leader’s job to focus ahead. S/he does not measure progress by conformity to systems and processes. S/he measures progress by how well those systems and processes advance the company or organization forward, propelling everyone and everything towards the future.
Not everyone can do that. Some leaders strangely find it comforting and reassuring to be needed and validate that reassurance by being drawn in to problems.
Focus on those tasks and responsibilities uniquely yours (forward moving items) and give everything else away. EVERYTHING! Problems, problematic people, or broken things. Superlative leaders don’t get caught in those nets. Issues need to be addressed, problems need to be solved, and people need attention but it is not your responsibility to do all of it. Your focus must remain forward and relatively narrow.
Raise up others who will facilitate you and your vision then trust them to extend your reach, multiply your effectiveness, and divide your work. To do that you need to trust your own instincts and abilities to recruit and empower the right people.
Focus efforts on those tasks and people who will make change real. There are those folks called CAVE people – Constantly Against Virtually Everything. They delight in finding something wrong with just about everything and are not shy about vocalizing their opinion. They can, because they make so much noise and stir things up, draw your attention and pull time and energy away from forward movement. Isolate those folks and treat the disease (either cure it or amputate it), but remain forward focus.
When you’re up to your armpits in alligators, remember that alligators are not the objective, draining the swamp is. Stay motivated yourself. Stay focused yourself. Stay encouraged yourself. You have the upper hand and the higher ambition. Don’t let issues and problems appear bigger than they appear. You are bigger than any of them and you will prevail.