Leadership “ethos” and workplace productivity


Peter Reilly, famous organizational productivity consultant and author once asserted that: “Regardless of what title you hold or role you play in your organization, there is something in you that knows that no matter what good ideas or strategies the experts generate . . . those ideas go nowhere without leadership”.

According to Reilly, the key element in whether a plan, programme or strategy succeeds or not is directly related to the effectiveness of leadership.

This amply underscores the import of leadership in any organization. But then, it needs to be stressed that leadership is not only about title or authority or having a great personality, or being an orator. The great philosophical thinker, Aristotle spoke of ‘ethos’ as a type of leadership in which a leader influences others to change their values and thus their performance.

‘Ethos’ is not what a person says or promises, but it is their way of being in the world, their presence and comportment that affects how others follow them and whether they are open to their ideas. In essence, Aristotle’s position is that the leadership that matters is the one that enhances productivity and positive change. This position is quite important because individual productivity is irrevocably tied to organizational productivity.

It is, however crucial to state that one factor that is critical to both leadership and productivity is time. John Rompton, online marketing guru, argued that because there are only so many hours in the day making the most of your time is critical. He was actually echoing ancient wisdom commonly regarded as axiomatic and yet routinely ignored notwithstanding that classic and long-gone thinkers and philosophers have espoused them.

One of such business titan who echoed the wisdom of the ancient thinkers and philosophers was Mr. Steve Jobs, founder of Apple Computers, who, in his famous speech to the Yale University Convocation, emphasised that everybody’s time is limited.Thus, the most important reason why the issue of productivity should be taken seriously is because time is limited and we have to make it worthwhile.

Of course, productivity is also important in many more ways. Andy Core, an author and speaker on Work-Life Balance, Wellbeing, and Peak Human Performance has explored how productivity impacts an organisation and its major stakeholders. He posited that the organization’s customers are the first to benefit from a productive workforce. According to him, productivity in the workplace will often translate into acceptable service and interaction. This total client experience is the key to satisfying key stakeholders and almost all highly productive organisations use this to gain customer loyalty. When a customer is loyal to your business, they will share their experience with others, which is a marketing advantage coming out of high levels of productivity.

The organisation itself is second in line to benefit from increased productivity, according to Andy core as the employees themselves are an investment, and like any investment, they should yield a healthy or worthwhile return to the organisation. Therefore, when employees are highly productive, the organisation achieves its goals of investing in them in the first place. Productivity also helps to motivate the workplace culture and boost morale thus producing an even better organizational environment.

In same vein, employees will equally benefit from increased productivity in the organisation because when an organisation becomes successful, incentives are bound to be made available to the employees. This will serve as motivation to the employees. Indeed, productivity in the workplace is an important aspect of every organisation and when all stakeholders understand this concept, success is just around the corner.

It is, therefore, important for every critical stakeholder in an organisation to consider how to make each moment count in their own interest and in the interest of the organisation. On this matter of increasing productivity, John Rompton said: “There are two ways to increase your output–either put in more hours or work smarter. I don’t know about you, but I prefer the latter.”

Working smarter has now been established as better than working harder. Also, behavioural scientists have found that while being more productive at work is not rocket science, it does require being more deliberate about how one manages one’s time. John Rompton formulated some strategies that could boost productivity in the workplace.

The first strategy is to track and limit how much time you spend on tasks. You may think that you are pretty good at gauging how much time you are spending on various tasks. However, some research suggests only around 17 percent of people are able to accurately estimate the passage of time.

The second is to take regular breaks. This may sound counterintuitive, but taking scheduled breaks can actually help improve concentration. Some research has shown that taking short breaks during long tasks helps maintain a constant level of performance; while working at a task without breaks leads to a steady decline in performance.

The third strategy is to set self-imposed deadlines. While we usually think of stress as a bad thing, a manageable level of self-imposed stress can actually be helpful in terms of aiding focus and helping to meet set goals. For open-ended tasks or projects, try giving yourself a deadline, and then stick to it. You may be surprised to discover just how focused and productive you can be when you are watching the clock.

Another useful strategy is to follow the “two-minute rule.” Entrepreneur Steve Olenski recommends implementing the “two-minute rule” to make the most of small windows of time that you have at work. The idea is this: If you see a task or action that you know can be done in two minutes or less, do it immediately. According to Olenski, completing the task right away actually takes less time than having to get back to it later. Implementing this has made him one of the most influential content strategists online.

Another suggested strategy is to quit multitasking. While we tend to think of the ability to multitask as an important skill for increasing efficiency, the opposite may in fact be true. Psychologists have found attempting to do several tasks at once can result in lost time and productivity. Instead, make a habit of committing to a single task before moving on to your next project.

As a matter of fact, your productivity will be well-served if you give up on the illusion of perfection. It is common for many people to insist on attempting to perfect a task. The reality however is that nothing is ever perfect. Rather than wasting time chasing after this illusion, bang out your task to the best of your ability and move on. It is better to complete the task and move it off your plate. If need be, you can always come back and adjust or improve it later.

Finally, I wish to close with John Rampton’s profound question: “Every minute of your life is gold. Are you treating it that way?”


Akintola Benson Oke

Dr. Benson is Honourable Commissioner for Establishments, Training & Pensions, Lagos State

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Author: Akintola Benson Oke