The Guide to Leadership Shortcuts


Do you prefer the self-checkout line at the grocery store or the FastPass line at your favorite amusement park?

I do. I’m the highway driver who uses 2 different GPS apps at the same time so I don’t miss a shortcut on my way to Los Angeles or San Diego.

Shortcuts in our everyday lives have been known to increase productivity and maximize our schedules—something we all desire. But there are areas in our lives as leaders where shortcuts actually make things worse. And in the words of author J.R.R. Tolkien, “Shortcuts make long delays.”

So here’s my guide to leadership shortcuts you need to avoid:

1. Leading Others Before Leading Myself.
It takes only a few seconds to get busy, running around at a frantic pace, and checking off our to-do lists. But it takes a lot of time to get clear on what it means to lead from a place of authenticity + vulnerability + strengths. If you are a person of faith, it also takes time to gain clarity on how God wants us to steward our gifts, time, energy, and limits. Define what it means to lead yourself well.

2. Cheating on Your Daily Routine. 
If prayer, journaling, exercise or mediation are part of your morning or evening routine, then taking this shortcut is a fast route to burnout, exhaustion, and uncharacteristic leadership decisions. The more skilled, gifted, competent, and experienced we are, the more we think it’s ok to skip these daily anchors. And the truth is that we can often get away with it too. But only for so long. Stay anchored with those daily rhythms and routines.

3. Rushing. 
“Rushing is an oil light in a car dashboard indicating something is wrong with the engine,” says author Pete Scazzero. When we find ourselves rushing, we need to pause and ask ourselves: What am I running from? Am I avoiding something or someone? Why am I feeling anxious? Name your answers to these questions. Write them down, release the pressure you feel with prayer, and face your anxieties and areas of avoidance headlong.

4. Lack of Meeting Preparation. 
Don’t waste your team’s time by being unprepared for a meeting. Taking this shortcut and attempting to lead meetings on the fly will eventually catch up to you in the forms of confusion, unmet expectations, repeated conversations regarding the same issues, miscommunication when informing other teams of decisions made on the fly, and so on. Take 10-15 minutes to prep for each meeting this week and notice the difference.

5. Ignoring the Tension. 
This shortcut is when we don’t ask hard questions when something is wrong, or don't enter into a difficult conversation. But when we do this, the tension only increases. Have you ever tried to push a beach ball deep underwater? You can only push it down so far before the pressure causes it to shoot out of the water with more force than you’d expect for a cheap, plastic ball. When we try to ignore tension between individuals, or teams, we’re just pushing the beach ball underwater and giving it greater force to eventually explode out of the water. The more you’re willing to face the tension, the less explosions you will experience.

6. Waiting to Seek Wise Counsel. 
We all know that staying healthy requires regular check-ups with the doctor or a health practitioner, even when we’re not sick. So why do we avoid the check-ups we need to stay healthy as leaders? If things aren’t going so well, we are quick to seek the counsel of a mentor, a consultant, a therapist, a spiritual director or a wise friend. But why not invest that time, energy and money in our leadership journey as a whole? Be consistent with seeking counsel on a weekly or monthly basis with at least one trusted advisor and see how this changes the health of your leadership.

What would you add to the list of shortcuts to avoid?

*This list was inspired by author + leader + pastor Pete Scazzero’s list of 10 Shortcuts Leaders/Pastors Need to Avoid. Read the post here.


Beth Graybill