Over the course of the past 30 years, many who don’t know me have asked me to describe my leadership style. The word I come back with often takes them aback to the point they undoubtedly question the quality of the institutions that have employed me: lazy.
For almost anyone I have encountered that word has a negative connotation. The idea of “not willing to work or use any effort” as described by the Cambridge Dictionary often tricks the mind into picturing an individual sitting in a recliner while the fescue at their house grows to levels comparable to Cogon Grass in Vietnam. But, if in fact, I pay someone to mow that grass so I can sit in the recliner – the definition switches from one of an embarrassing trait to that of a quality one may want to emulate. With that in mind, here is why laziness can be a good piece of the portfolio of a successful leader:
Laziness spawns creativity.
The first true television remote control, invented by Zenith in 1950, was named the Lazy Bone. It was originally created because one of the owners at Zenith wanted to be able to mute or “zap out” commercials without having to get up to do so. A real estate man who probably got tired of a sickle or machete in his hand instead of a golf club invented the Weed Eater. To put it in a business perspective, the automated assembly line at Ford somehow makes me think that a worker who was a bit tired of doing multiple tasks while depending on the timing of an unreliable coworker to help him suggested the idea to old Henry himself, who in turn created a landmark revolution in the industrial age. The idea of questioning the status quo because we are “working harder, not smarter” is a quality that, while also having capitalist motivation, frees up more time for the leader to be lazy while raking in the profits and not needing to continually hire employees, who quit because they are tired of doing things the hard way.
Laziness helps you surround yourself with quality people.
I often told my staff at meetings that if I was not the dumbest person in the room I was not doing my job. That may have been a paradoxical statement, however, because by hiring people smarter than me, didn’t that make me the smartest person in the place? Hiring smart people who can buy into a culture and relying on them with trust makes your job, your work, your life so much easier because your time in critiquing, redoing, and undoing problems just was reduced to almost nothing. Pick the best and brightest subject matter experts continue to rely on them with the trust they deserve, listen to their inputs and the medals, awards and/or profits will take care of themselves. You will work less, fish more and be a lot better person to hang around.
Laziness reduces duplicity.
Okay, quick question: How many of you have ever been tasked with something in a sub organization that actually, you find out, has been tasked or already accomplished by someone in another sub organization or department of your company without your knowledge? Or worse, what if you were tasked to find a solution to a problem that another sub organization of your organization does not view as a problem at all – but does find your solution to the problem a problem? If the answer were never, then I would say you have never been anything other than self-employed.
This entire scenario gets me humming the old Crosby, Stills and Nash tune “Wasted on the Way’ in my head. Effective leaders ask questions of their peers and their leaders before they are caught up in tasking while it is being done somewhere, has already been done, or is not desirable to do in the first place for a variety of reasons. Communication saves time that is wasted, improves morale of employees and of yourself, and encourages you to not get into the “ready, fire, aim” mindset. If I find out someone else has done or is doing it, I am happy to be lazy and avoid the work and do it again.
Laziness helps you effectively mentor.
“I don’t want to do this job forever” is often a battle cry of those wanting to retire. Secretly, they may be lying, but if it in fact is the truth, then they have no one to blame but themselves. It is not only your duty to the organization and the individual to prepare and mentor your probable replacement well in advance of your departure, it is idiotic not to on a time economizing level. You cannot properly get the rest, and down time you need to recharge the batteries for the next chapter of your life if you are doing your job while your replacement watches the same week you are leaving! Spending the time on the front side of the equation leaves much more time for relaxation and mental recess at the end of it.
Laziness sets the example for all.
Follow me on this. We are going to imagine a leader that does none of the above. They are the smartest person in the room, don’t question processes or products because they don’t understand the importance of creativity, task things without investigating if they have been done before, and don’t think anyone else can do their job so they don’t mentor. That person may never be accused of being lazy. They may work 60 hours a week. They also may be the worst leader you have ever encountered.
Do not be that person and show your employees that they should not be that person either. Show your employees that being lazy can be a good thing.