Time management gurus stress the importance of putting the boulders in your schedule first. You must prioritize the key actions and items of your life. But does this strategy ever free us from all the details that so often follow? Can we delegate all the little stuff away? I don’t think so.
Leadership necessarily involves dealing with minutiae sometimes.
I have been mulling over this contrarian advice from Steven Sample:
…I have come up with Sample’s 70/30 Formula for Leadership – to wit, under ideal conditions up to 30 percent of a leader’s time can be spent on really substantive matters, and no more than 70 percent of his time should be spent reacting to or presiding over trivial, routine or ephemeral matters. Freshman CEO’s often enter the fray determined to spend most of their time as true leaders (i.e., working on issues that really count) while delegating all the trivial parts of their job to the staff. Such naifs are generally gone in a year or two, victims of a dragon born of minutiae which could have been easily slain in its infancy, but which suddenly grew to man-eating proportions. In other words, most of a top leader’s time must necessarily be spent dealing with trivia and ephemera if he wants to survive and maintain his effectiveness as a leader over the long haul.
The real danger implicit in Sample’s 70/30 Formula is that the 30 percent of a leader’s effort devoted to important matters (such as independent thinking and inspiring his followers) may shrink to 20 percent, and then to 10 percent, and then to 5 percent, and finally to nothing, as the press of trivial and routine matters ultimately consumes all of hi s time and energy. I know scores of corporate CEOs and university presidents who find themselves in this position, and who feel impotent and unhappy as a result. It requires enormous discipline for the top leader in an organization to maintain the substantive component of his job near the 30 percent level.
Of course, there is no bright line separating substance from trivia and ephemera. Moreover, an activity which appears to be trivial or routine at the outset frequently turns out to be substantive, and vice versa. But on balance, Sample’s 70/30 Formula provides a practical upper limit on the fraction of a leader’s time and effort which can be spent on really important matters.
Thus the person who wants to do president (as opposed to simply be president) should be delighted with a 70/30 split in favor of trivia over substance. By contrast, people who need a higher percentage of substance in their lives should stay away from top leadership positions.” (161-162)
Sample, S. B. (2001). The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership. Jossey-Bass.