Executive Coach Executive CoachExecutive Coach
Scott Eblin offers his take on lessons in the news and his advice on your pressing leadership questions.

Five Questions for Leaders Who Are at Their Limits


Earlier this week, I was talking with an executive who's recently been promoted to run a business unit that earlier this decade was generating a few million dollars a year in revenue and this year will gross a few hundred million dollars. Through acquisitions and organic growth, the business could be twice its current size in a few more years. As we were talking about the changes she might have to make in her leadership style as the business grows, I remembered a conversation I had last year with another executive who was facing the same sort of situation.

In this earlier case, a senior executive of a real estate company explained to me that he was responsible for properties that generated $500 million in revenue and that because of reorganizations in the company he was going to now be responsible for $1 billion worth of properties. He told me that in the previous year he had travelled 225 days to appear at one property after another and he didn't know how he was going to pull off overseeing twice as many properties. My response was that one thing we knew for sure was that he wasn't going to travel 450 days in the upcoming year.

That was the ah-ha moment for him. He recognized that the natural limits of time were going to force him to change his approach. Oftentimes leaders get so caught up in the doing that they don't stop to assess whether or not what they're trying to do is actually physically possible. In his case, being personally present at every property in his business unit over the course of a year just wasn't possible. My observation that you can't travel 450 days in one year was the trigger for him to step back and reassess.

Maybe you're in a similar situation. Here are five questions you can ask yourself to assess your leadership situation and determine what your options are around the highest and best use of your time as a leader.

Question 1:
What am I trying to do that extends beyond the actual time available to me to personally do it?

Question 2:
What am I trying to accomplish by doing that?

Question 3:
Given the role that I'm in, what should I be trying to accomplish instead?

Question 4:
What resources (people, systems, processes) do I need to acquire or develop to cover whatever still seems worthwhile in my answer to Question 2?

Question 5:
What opportunities do I have to shift from retail leadership (being personally present or involved in everything) to wholesale leadership (leveraging and involving others to act on the overall plan)?

What are you noticing about limits lately? What are you doing to adjust? I'd love to hear your thoughts and stories about changes you're making to deal with the limits leaders face.

Executive coach Scott Eblin’s goal is to help you succeed at the next level of leadership. Throughout the week, he’ll offer his take on the leadership lessons in the news and his advice on your most pressing leadership questions. A former government executive, Scott is a graduate of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and is the author of The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success.

Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.