Work Hard not Smart: That’s the Salty Truth

If you go through the biographies of many globally recognized business leaders, such as Sir Richard Branson, Elon Musk, Carlos Ghosn, Jeff Bezos and Carly Fiorina, you will come to the realization that they all put in more than 100 hours a week.That’s the equivalent of 14 hours a day (and change), weekends included.

If that’s the case then what should one make of the adage “Work smart, not hard”? Not much I am afraid simply because the saying is exactly that, a mere saying.

You see, in today’s fiercely competitive world, being a successful business leader demands that you outwork everyone on the floor; that you turn on the office lights in the morning and turn them back off at night, before you leave. It requires that you out-sweat everybody around you, regardless of their age, role or level. And on weekends, it requires that you spend your time, working out or being active rather than binging on a TV show or catching up with emails.

That’s the salty truth.

Having said that, one must also realize that working hard is easier said than done, mainly because of the sheer amount of stamina required, day in day out. So to help you out a bit, I am taking the liberty of summarizing the 5 lessons I learned from studying these leaders (and many more) and from having worked hard at being one for the past decade or so.

  • Ditch social media: the reason I started with this unusual requirement is because I am well aware of the amount of time and effort people spend nowadays trying to embellish their image using social media channels. Successful leaders don’t waste their time “updating their status” or ‘tweeting’ and then anxiously await to see how many ‘Likes” they got or how many followers they now have as a result. Hard working leaders occupy social media rather than get occupied by it. They do so by being successful not by spending their time ogling at a screen or typing on a keyboard. And if it so happens that such social media exposure is crucial for their image or their business, they find others who’ll do it for them. They leave it for the minions!
  • Trust your routine: successful leaders have an unwavering commitment to their carefully established routines. They do so because they realize that routines minimize the unknown and the stress that comes with not knowing what to expect. They prefer to be in control of their schedules so they can influence the outcomes they seek.
  • Beware (the truth behind) delegation: if you find yourself continuously delegating tasks then you are unfortunately surrounded by the wrong supporting cast. Competent team members are in sync with their captain and as such, they are well aware of his/her expectations. When that’s the case, they tend to support their leader by pro-acting on what needs to be done rather than waiting for the go signal.
  • Avoid routine meetings: a Japanese executive in Toyota once told me that routine meetings are the worst form of earning a salary! At first, I did not understand what he meant but as I attended more and more of those, I realized that most of them, if not all, could have been replaced by a well written circular. Successful leaders don’t sit around in reclining chairs listening to droning presentations about what happened and then brainstorming what needs to happen! They use live dashboards to stay up-to-date on company performance and a proactive supporting cast to execute what needs to be done.
  • Be fit as a fiddle: Out-sweating your supporting cast will not happen if you don’t have a routine focused on maintaining your strength. Everyone can put in 10 hours a day for a short period of time. A few can do it as a lifestyle. If you plan on improving your leadership skills then make sure that a significant chunk of the 100 hours in question is invested in maintaining your fitness and improving your stamina. You will be sweating more but that once again, is the salty truth!