Ideas and stories from my growth journey. Warning: If you are interested in a casual, comfortable life, this blog will be counterproductive for you.

Is Your Time Management More American or African? [From How to Fail as a Leader]

Over 80% of my new book is an exciting adventure story (it’s much more fun to learn that way). But at the end of each chapter, I explore some of the lessons embedded in the story. This post is a selection from the end of Chapter Two.


Book Cover - front

People have strong feelings about time and task management. In the United States many people consider how a person handles these to be a character issue. They evaluate others’ integrity and maturity by how soon they show up before an appointment, for example. Failing to get a task done when you said you would means you didn’t keep your word—you lied. However, I have friends who are successful leaders in places like South Africa and India who find these standards absurd. They believe good leaders are gracious enough to allow others to show up whenever it works best for them.

So what’s the right answer? How should leaders manage time and to do’s? African style? American style? Another style?

For individuals, I think the right approach is different for each person. We all have our own unique wiring and there’s not one right answer. However, this isn’t a book about identifying your preferred style. This is a book for leaders. When you are a leader, your choices have a bigger impact on others. Good leaders do what best serves their people, not what best pleases themselves. Tweet This

And, of course, I made some big mistakes in this area, too. I’m naturally more “African” in my approach to time and tasks. But I was born in America and often work with leaders who are strictly “American” in their view of time. (I used to joke that I was born on the wrong continent.) Early on, I was challenged about my casual approach toward time and tasks. My flexible schedule caused real trouble for those I led, sometimes disrupting the rest of their day. I struggled with this for a while, but eventually realized that if I wanted to be a good leader, this was one of the (many) things I needed change. I needed to serve those I led by working in a way that was best for them.

I engaged a leadership coach, read books, and bit by bit established a simple, but powerful system to make sure I showed up on time and didn’t forget tasks. I learned to sort and respond to emails much faster, even if all I could say was, “I’ll get back to you on this next week.” I became more organized and disciplined than I thought possible—because that’s what my people needed from me.

I also have friends who moved from America to India who had to make the opposite shift. They had to learn to schedule their day loosely, to stay calm when the plan changed, and then changed again. When you’re a leader, it’s not just about you. It’s about those you lead.

Adduce [one of the heroes of the story] didn’t intend to create trouble for those he led. But his casual approach to time and tasks conflicted with how the fort operated. And without realizing it, Addoc was losing Eldin’s trust [the other hero of the book], one missed commitment at a time.


Again, this was pulled from my book, How to Fail as a Leader, which hits the stores next Monday, April 25th! If you are interested in ordering a book, just send me a message and I’ll get one sent to you. Or check it on out Amazon HERE.]

Scott WozniakIs Your Time Management More American or African? [From How to Fail as a Leader]
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