LAMP: Turning on the Right Leadership Overhead

by  Jon Mertz  |  Leadership Development

Leadership overhead is necessary, if properly applied. When it becomes a complete burden on others, the leadership overhead shifts and weighs down on teams and organizations. The balance between enough and going too far is for leaders to recognize and others to hold them accountable against a reasonable standard.

What constitutes a leadership overhead standard?

Part of the formula can be time. If we say a 5% leadership overhead is a reasonable rate, then what is it applied to? One logical element is time spent. Let’s take a 40-hour work week. Now, I know most work more hours than this, but it sets the example.

Applying 5% to a 40-hour work week means 2 hours should be spent on leadership overhead. It seems like a solid amount to spend, and maybe it should be time-capped on certain activities in order to get the most positive benefit.

What leadership overhead activities produce the best return?

The best way to spend our leadership overhead time is on those activities that make us better as leaders and enable others to do more with less guidance. It is about leverage, enabling more to be achieved with the most efficient amount of effort and resources.

To do this, the LAMP model – Learning, Adapting, Mentoring, Planning – may produce the best use of leadership overhead. Let’s shine a light on LAMP.

Learning. A certain portion of time needs to be spent learning, having give-and-take conversations. This is not about reading books, as this is on organization time. It is about learning from other team members and individuals in different departments. Part of the learning activities should be focused on customers, suppliers, and partners.

There is a community of people surrounding our leadership, and we need to tap into their knowledge, experiences, and insights. By doing this, our learning will excel in ways relevant to our organization and our leadership capabilities.

Adapting. A necessary component of leadership overhead needs to be adapting to trends, changes, and new ways to achieve results. Adapting is about being flexible, and it is about change. As leaders, if we have not changed how we do, listen, or talk, then we are not expending enough of our leadership overhead to get the most out of our time and abilities.

Adapting is the only constant to leading. It is about being true to certain values while adapting practices to lead more fully and relevantly in a new generation.

Mentoring. Mentoring equals coaching. It is about spending the time to guide, suggest, and lend an ear to hear the issues, opportunities, and challenges others are working through. It is not dictating or telling. It is about enabling others to refresh their thinking, adjust their outlook, and renew their abilities.

Leading translates into empowering others to grow. Growing leadership skillsets will create a competitive advantage.

Planning. Too often, leaders get in a reactive position or a rut. Without planning time and effort, teams and organizations will zigzag through a maze rather than zip forward with momentum. Planning adds the necessary zip in our work.

Thoughtful planning takes time to think ahead six months, twelve months, and twenty-four months. It is horizon-based planning efforts that helps set direction, and leaders need to spend time developing the right plans.

Turn your LAMP overhead on!

LAMP activities set the right stage for leadership overhead to be well-spent. It is like dollars invested, because the return is real. It is real in human terms, and this is where the potential is for many, if not all, organizations.

Leadership overhead is about the “costs incurred to make something else possible.” These are the good costs to spend. Our people depend on it in order to do more, better work and feel good about working in an organization with talented, caring, enabling leaders.

Where do you spend your good leadership overhead? What activities deliver the greatest benefit in enabling the possible?



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About The Author

Articles By jon-mertz
Jon Mertz is one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business and author of Activate Leadership: Aspen Truths to Empower Millennial Leaders. At Thin Difference, Jon writes and facilitates a conversation on how to empower, challenge, and guide the next generation of leaders.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Karin Hurt  |  05 Oct 2012  |  Reply

I believe strongly in all the activities you mentioned. Great post. I was surprised to see your recommended % so low. I spend much more time on these activities, and I see a huge ROI.

Jon Mertz  |  05 Oct 2012  |  Reply

Thanks, Karin, for your feedback. The percentage I included was just for example. I am interested in hearing what you and others believe is the right level. Thoughts? Is the right “good” leadership overhead rate 10%, 20%…. Let me know your thoughts. Thanks so much! Jon

Jeff Orr  |  05 Oct 2012  |  Reply

Even though a leader may dedicate a specific time to LAMP, I would challenge us all to expand our thinking into utilizing these activities all throughout the day. You can apply them to each meeting and interaction in small ways. This perspective shift allows for greater growth across the board.

Jon Mertz  |  05 Oct 2012  |  Reply

Excellent point, Jeff. Increments of time spent on these activities can become big leverage points throughout a day and week. Appreciate the addition! Jon

Glen Gaugh  |  05 Oct 2012  |  Reply

Glad to see the leadership overhead discussion continue. LAMP is an excellent guide to appropriate overhead. Love the concept; it’s very tangible, even as a way to provide perspective to employees on how much time is actually spent on development and evaluate how effective it has been in improving performance.

Thanks again!

Jon Mertz  |  06 Oct 2012  |  Reply

Thanks, Glen. I like that perspective of how it can help people on both sides – leader and team members. Appreciate it! Jon

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