What’s the best use of a leader’s time?

I asked this to 1,000 managers, founders and executives from all over the world. Here’s what they said.

Claire Lew
Jun 6, 2018 · 4 min read

Time is the one constant we are all given. No one gets more or less of it than anyone else.

As leaders, it’s how we spend our time — what we choose to prioritize, and what we choose not to do at all — that reveals what’s important to us, and determines our team’s outcomes. If we want to figure out how to be an effective leader in the workplace, we must start with examining how we spend our time.

As a CEO myself, I’ve personally wrestled with this. I’ve had weeks where I’ve had fires to put out, meetings to show up to, business development calls to make, interviews to hold… Before I know it, the week is over, and I’m looking back at it thinking, “What the hell just happened? Where did my week go? Is that really where I wanted to spend my time?”

As a result, I decided to pose this question, “What’s the best use of a leader’s time?” to our online leadership community in Know Your Team, The Watercooler, with 1,000 leaders from all over the world. The answers were remarkably consistent.

Based on Watercooler members’ responses, there seemed to be three areas that leaders should focus their time on…

Recruiting + Hiring

As a leader, you also set the standard for what matters when hiring: the skillset, the values, the experience. You say when it’s time to hire — and when it’s not. Naturally, depending on the size of your company, you may have a hiring team helping you out with this. But regardless, your voice in this process as the leader is essential. It’s too important for you not to be spending your time on it.

Considering your team’s long-term strategy, vision, and culture

Communicating the direction to everybody all the time


These three areas are what our Watercooler members said are the best use of a leader’s time. But how about for you? Do you find yourself spending time in these areas as a leader… or not?

Sharing these three areas prompted even one member of the Watecrooler to reflect and write about how she plans her week. I encourage you to do the same.

Our capacity to improve as leaders expands when we evaluate how we spend our time.


P.S.: This was originally published on the Know Your Team Blog. If you enjoyed this piece, please feel free to share + give it 👏 so others can find it too. Thanks 😊 (And you can always say hi at @clairejlew.)

Signal v. Noise

Strong opinions and shared thoughts on design, business, and technology. Since 1999. Work together the easy way with our all-new version 3 at https://basecamp.com

Claire Lew

Written by

CEO of Know Your Team (http://knowyourteam.com). My life’s mission is to help people become happier at work.

Signal v. Noise

Strong opinions and shared thoughts on design, business, and technology. Since 1999. Work together the easy way with our all-new version 3 at https://basecamp.com

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