What are you worth?

I frequently speak to leaders about how they manage their time. But I blanch at the term “managing your time.” I’m not even certain why the term bugs me. Maybe because it’s not a big enough term to describe the real challenge.

Maybe we should speak instead about “creating time to lead,” or perhaps “distilling our calendars.” In our book The Leadership Platform, Steve Motenko and I offer a mantra of leadership:

“My intentions are the intentions of a leader, and I spend my time accordingly.”

This means there is a constant filtering process inherent in a leader’s daily planning: Is what I’m doing today leadership, or management, or neither? Do my calendar and my to-do list reflect the intentions of a leader? This constant questioning of choices is a habit every leader must cultivate.

I had a long conversation with a talented person hoping to use a consulting gig as an “audition” for an executive position with a desirable employer. As we talked about how to structure her consulting contract, she kept focusing on her hourly rate.

I suggested this was exactly the wrong way to start the relationship with the new company — sourced in a limited view of her importance. As an executive, her employer won’t be paying her for her time. They will be paying for her leadership.

Effective leaders believe they are paid not for their time, but for the value they drive. They believe they are paid to be change agents, to drive strategic value, to transform, to communicate mission and vision.

These activities aren’t free from time constraints, but time itself shouldn’t be the focus; driving value should.

Of course, using time wisely is critical, and leaders must acquire tools to do so. A to-do list and a comprehensive calendar are the primary tools, useful in carving out and defending the intentions of a leader. But when you look at your calendar, what do you see? Do you see the intentions of a leader? Or a tactical mélange of meetings and activities that lack vision and creativity?

I’ve seen great time managers who were lousy leaders. At the end of the day, the question isn’t how many tasks you completed, but how you lived the intentions of your leadership. The tasks you’ve completed only go hand-in-hand with your intentions when you put the highest value on your effectiveness and avoid a “time for pay” mentality.


  • Put an hourly value of $150 per hour on your time and then review your calendar and to-do list. Are you spending your day doing $150 per hour work, or work that could be done by someone else in the organization?
  • Divide all your tasks into one of three categories: “I”, meaning only I can do this work, “D” meaning that the work could be delegated today to someone else, or “DT” meaning that the work could be effectively delegated if someone were trained to do it. As a leader you should concentrate the maximum effort on the “I” column. That’s where you earn your salary!
  • About the Author

    Jim Hessler
    Jim Hessler bootstrapped his way from retail work into a successful career as salesman, sales manager, Fortune 500 executive, and corporate turnaround engineer. Along the way, he developed The Leadership Platform, a proven model for training managers to become sustainably better leaders. It became the basis of his leadership primer, Land On Your Feet, Not On Your Face: A Guild to Building Your Leadership Platform. Jim is the founder of Path Forward Leadership Development Services.

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