September 19, 2017

Tips on Practicing Just Enough and Just In Time Leadership

I’m always struck by the parallels of enduring through tough times and how leaders inspire their supporters to what it’s like to do an endurance event (the whole Be Calm and Carry On theme really captures that mindset).

Both types of situations are the same (albeit not life and death) — an apparently insurmountable challenge that will push your resolve and courage to the brink.

These types of situations (sustained effort over extended periods of time) really need a consistent and present amount of leadership that is just in time to be relevant, just enough to push things forward and not too intense to burn people out.

Just Enough

What got me thinking about just enough and just in time leadership was an article about the Painless Path to Endurance by Tim Ferriss of 4-hour anything fame (well, it certainly seems that way).

Anyway, his post had some great advice about “just enough training.” That got me thinking about my own workouts and my next big challenge — a Full Vineman.

It also sparked me thinking about leadership and how that advice makes a whole lot of sense. In fact, endurance leadership, among other things, is about being consistent in action and having longevity — no short cuts, no gimmicks and no excuses.

Another important thing about endurance leaders is that they give just enough guidance, advice, push, demands or encouragement to get their supporters to be successful. In other words, it’s just enough to get the job done — no more, no less.

Just In Time

Another aspect of leadership that’s important is the just in time leader. Timing, like in comedy, is everything and a leader needs to know when to step in and lead and when to hold off for the right moment.

Without this sense of timing, the advice, push or encouragement will not be as effective and in some cases, ineffective.

Timing is important in training as well. You don’t want to train too hard before a race and you certainly don’t want to spend too much time training. The right balance comes from knowing what your body needs and when it needs it — just like with your supporters.

Consistency and Moderation Over Intensity In Leadership

In Tim’s article, he talks about something that a friend of his burned into his brain about working out:

Consistency and moderation over intensity — Dr. Jim Wright

That’s also a valuable lesson for leaders in that most leaders don’t recognize that effective leadership is about showing up, day after day, to give your supporters the guidance and encouragement they need.

The effective leader is effective because their actions are consistent over time and don’t jump to extremes. They don’t parachute into a situation, bark out orders and then trot off. Rather, they build up a consistent and steady message of how they want a situation or project to come out. Contrast that with the intense leader.

The intense leader does no such thing. They come in and focus for a brief period of time and hope that their supporters get what they want done. Most of the time, this style just leaves their supporters discouraged, confused and feeling abandoned.

Essential Skills for Just Enough and Just In Time Leadership

We touched on a few of these skills above but now, let’s take a look at the essential skills to practice just enough and just in time leadership:

  • Be present but not overbearing: This is a real art because leaders usually want the spot light. Instead, been seen and only heard when needed.

  • Know when supporters need to struggle: Struggle is important for learning and growth. Without struggle, we would not remember the hard lessons. Resist the temptation to “jump in and fix” stuff until it’s really needed.

  • Step away when needed: Sometimes, the mere presence of the leader can make a situation worst. Know when to walk away and let others deal with the issues.

  • Keep calm and carry on: This famous British saying was used to reinforce the “British Resolve” during the start of World War II. It’s also a great way to act when faced with the need to jump in and push your supporters more.

  • Don’t overcorrect: Correction is fine but too much will just make your supporters feel inferior — especially if done in a public or demeaning way. Let them make mistakes — it makes them better.

  • Step in or up when needed: Once you recognize that a struggle will end badly, you need to step in or up to help. The trick is the timing on when so that you don’t overcorrect

  • Make things happen: One of the most important factors in just enough and just in time leadership is to make things happen when they need to happen. That makes it much easier to gradually push projects along without having to scramble at the last minute.

From this list, you can see that nowhere does it list fixing the problem or taking charge. Rather, it’s about being able to advise your supporters how to take charge and solve their own problems. Of course, sometimes you do need to take the reins but that should be a rare event if you are faithful to just enough and just in time leadership.

Just Make It Happen

One thing to keep in mind is that just enough and just in time leadership is about just making it happen. Making things happen is what leadership is all about. By living just enough and just in time leadership you can make things happen since being consistent (just in time) and moderate (just enough) demonstrates your commitment to your supporters and the cause. It also allows you to unleash the endurance leader that is in all of us.

Keep Calm and Carry On!