The demands on a leader’s time are infinite but his/her time is finite. The ability to maximise finite time is essential for both personal and professional success. Leaders should aspire to be both effective and efficient in executing their responsibilities. It is, however, important to know the difference between these terms because some leaders don’t. This knowledge prevents such leaders from putting the cart before the horse.
Effectiveness is defined as doing the right thing; while efficiency defined as doing things right. It is possible to be efficient but not effective. You can be doing things right but doing the wrong things right. Efficiency focuses on performance but effectiveness is focused on priorities. You need to know your priorities first before taking action. This prevents wasting both time and energy on tackling the wrong things. Effectiveness requires both careful thought and sufficient time to determine what the appropriate priorities should be at any given time.
Due to the demand for results, leaders sometimes, in the haste to appear efficient, take impulsive actions without due diligence producing disastrous results.
According to the late management guru, Peter Drucker, the effective leader asks, “What needs to be done versus what do I want to do?” Focusing on what needs to be done helps clarify your priorities from distractions. There are a lot of things on a leader’s plate, but in order for him to be successful, he needs to isolate the critical from the frivolous. I read a long time ago that you can’t chase two rabbits at the same time because you end up catching none. Effectiveness enables you to decide which rabbit to chase and efficiency helps you catch the chosen rabbit.
Drucker, in his June 2004 Harvard Business Review article, stated that “I have never encountered an executive who remains effective while tackling more than two tasks at a time. Hence, after asking what needs to be done, the effective executive sets priorities and sticks to them. Other tasks, no matter how important or appealing, are postponed. However, after completing the original top-priority task, the executive resets priorities rather than moving on to number two from the original (to do) list. He asks, ‘what needs to be done now?’ This generally results in new and different priorities”.
It is important for you as a leader to know that doing things right is not as important as doing the right things.