On leadership courses we are often told that seeing the big picture and thinking strategically is critical to our success as a leader. While these skills are necessary, it is important to remember that simply focusing on the big picture is not enough and on its own can even cause poor leadership and project failure.
In the article in Fast Company, Robert Sutton argues the following: There is a difference between management and leadership, but focusing on it is dangerous.
I argued this distinction was accurate but dangerous because it distorts how too many bosses–at all levels–view and do their work. It encourages bosses to see generating big and vague ideas as the important part of their jobs–and to treat implementation, or pesky details of any kind, as mere “management work” best done by “the little people.” Even if left it unsaid, this distinction reflects how too many bosses think and act. They use it to avoid learning about people they lead, technologies their companies use, customers they serve, and numerous other crucial little things.
“Big picture only” bosses often make decisions without understanding constraints that affect the cost and time required to implement them. They are especially prone to suffer from the smart-talk trap because actually doing things and making sure things get done are chores for little people, not top dogs, A-players, or high potentials like them.
I am all for big ideas, visions, and dreams. But the best bosses do more than think big thoughts. They have a deep understanding of their industries, organizations, and teams, the people they lead, as well as other mundane things.
Remember to not make the mistake of thinking that leading is the same as abdicating. There is a critical difference between, on the one hand, understanding the details of your project, your team and the exact tasks required and on the other hand being overbearing and micromanaging everyone. Many leaders and bosses pat themselves on the back for leaving the staff to handle the details, but there is a clear difference between empowering your team members and leaving them ill-resourced and puzzled about how to actually execute the tasks.
Getting the balance right between allowing your personnel the room to grow and giving them the support they need will make the difference to the success of your work.
Take the time to learn the details and you can really excel as a leader.