[September 12, 2013] Henry Kissinger saw that one of the challenges of senior leaders on foreign policy was being able to discern between urgent and important matters, and then developing procedures to keep the urgent from overcoming the important.
What the Honorable Kissinger was saying is that leaders are sometimes so busy coping with urgent issues, like the recent Middle East violence, that they occasionally will fail to cope with important issues, like taking the time to develop a Middle East strategy that includes U.S. interests.
This is very applicable to senior executive leaders of all organizations, not just in foreign policy. It specifically includes the business world, military affairs, and other large-scale organizations such as universities and international non-profit organizations.
For leaders to be able to distinguish between the urgent and the important, and then develop methods to ensure the urgent doesn’t crowd out the important, is a critical skill set. Often, we are so overwhelmed by the sheer weight of daily meetings and telephone calls that we fail to provide support to the processes were are developing for an organizational vision and mission.
Dedicating resources to mundane but important issues surrounding the organization’s future cannot be left for tomorrow. Those issues might not be exciting, but they are things that must be dealt with in a methodical manner. Payoff is long term for important matters.
It is a human tendency to put off for tomorrow those things that require a grinding, concentrated effort to get it done, especially if it takes a long time.
It is the mark of a successful senior executive leader who can accomplish both urgent and important matters for their organization.