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  • Writer's picturePhil Cole

The Fourth "T" - TASKS

There is one additional thing that leadership is not. It’s a “T” word as well, but it’s a bit different that the other three. This is because this fourth “T” is contained in the second core of the definition - “building human relationships”.

Leadership is not tasks. In any given organization or project, there are a set of things that must be done to complete the work. For example, a production project might have budgeting, planning, needs assessment, product specification development, engineering design, prototype construction, review, manufacturing, sales and marketing, and delivery tasks. These are the critical activities that must be completed. However, they are not leadership.

The truth is, those tasks are actually relatively easy. Each one has been completed by someone else in the world, likely numerous times, though not necessarily with the specific quality and performance of the one you are working on. Someone has engineered a cell phone, or designed a skyscraper, though not as excellent as the one you are about to create. Because of this, we know that the task itself can be completed. If every person involved was only responsible for their specific task, and was provided every resource and bit of information he or she required, it would be simply a matter of waiting until the task was done perfectly.

This is, of course, not the case. And this is where leadership comes in.

Leadership is everything in between these tasks - it is the relationships between the people responsible for the tasks.

As leaders, when we lose sight of this fourth “T”, this thing that leadership is not, we become managers (at best). We assign and monitor task completion, we measure success by checking boxes, and we become obsessed with minutia. We are, in effect, a very fancy gantt chart or checklist. We are not leaders.

As leaders, our work is building relationships - the third core. If we are focused on those relationships - both the emotional connections and the interchanges of information and decisions between people - then the tasks will be completed naturally and without significant attention. But if we focus only on the tasks, then not only will those tasks become increasingly difficult and frustrating to push to fruition, but the relationships will suffer as well. Our organization will become mired in resentment, frustration, and stagnation.

I’m sure you’ve seen organizations that look exactly like that. Well, now you know why.

We’ll talk more about how we as leaders go about building relationships when we discuss the second core. For now, be aware that our attention is not on tasks themselves, but rather on the relationships between the people completing those tasks.

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