Why Great Leaders Pursue Effectiveness Over Efficiency


In the early days of my career I craved for more efficiency.

I’d been programmed to believe that to achieve more, you had to do more. Be able to get through more in a working day. Outdo the competition. Become ultra, super, almost robot like efficient.

I read books. Went on courses. Even used gadgets and tools to make me more productive.

Only to feel more overwhelmed, increasingly frustrated and ultimately burnt-out.

The turning point came when I spoke with a mentor of mine who is a well known British investor that has invested in over 200 different companies. He laughed at the concept of striving to be more efficient. I’ll never forget the line he mentioned: “ Effectiveness beats efficiency every day of the week.” He explained to me how efficiency is simply getting more done. But how effectiveness is getting the best thing done.

In the world we live in today, efficiency has become not only a buzz-word but an ideology that we all look to reach.

Its almost as if the workplace rewards those who can get more done, take more responsibility and even handle more stress than others.

Regardless of whether it is the more effective thing to do.

But great leaders are different. They concentrate more on being effective than just efficient. They focus more on doing the right things than simply more things.

Here are some reasons why great leaders pursue effectiveness over efficiency.

It’s more sustainable

Despite what we all have probably thought at some stage in our lives, perhaps the most hard hitting finding I have found in ten years as a recruiter is the strong link between increased work pressure and personal dissatisfaction.

I can say with confidence, that when anyone is under extreme workload over an extended period of time, they always feel the ramifications in another area of their life.

Whether it is their health, their relationships or even their happiness at some stage something usually gives. Sadly, the number of well known executives I have worked with who regret upon reflection how they managed their work-life balance through their careers is frighteningly high.

Great leaders understand that emphasizing efficiency over effectiveness is just another way of getting others to work harder and longer. To achieve more and more in a given period of time. Rather than working smarter. It’s almost as if those who work harder and longer are rewarded the most – regardless of how effective they have been.

Emphasizing effectiveness over efficiency is a much more sustainable strategy. It encourages others to get the job done rather than getting more done.

Great leaders seek longevity.

It’s more scalable

We all know that super star employee who just seems to get more done than most.

That company veteran, early starter or technology whiz who we all turn to throughout the day.

Although these super-efficient people are undoubtedly valuable, at the same time in a bizarre way they can also be limiting to a companies growth. By relying on a small group of individuals to handle essential tasks, it can be difficult to hire others who are expected to do the same. By creating an unrealistic expectation of volume and speed of work to be carried out, many organisations simply lose the opportunity to grow.

Great leaders understand that by focusing on effectiveness they can break procedures down into key tasks that require key skills. Which is much more easier to find and scale than having to hire super-experienced, super-hardworking and super-knowledgeable people every single time.

Great leaders get focused.

It creates a better culture

The problem with efficiency obsessed culture is that it is never enough.

We’ve all worked in places where outstanding performance simply resulted in sales targets going up, deadlines getting reduced and resources getting cut. Its almost as if the message is “well done, but we’d now like you to do more with less!”

Places such as this which are governed by efficiency and numbers are never fun to work. Great leaders understand that rather than focus purely on optimization, it is much better to emphasize effectiveness.

What can we do to improve our sales cycle? How can we work together better to save costs? Is there anything management can provide to improve effectiveness?

Results focused questions like these create much better engagement than simply trying to continuously squeeze out more efficiency and increase workload.

Great leaders create a great culture.


Being efficient is important.

But being effective is even more so.

Hiring managers can gain much from those people who don’t just focus on getting more done in less time, but who ensure they are following the path of greatest effectiveness at all times.

Could you be more effective?

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