The Origins of Lean Leadershit

Three centuries ago, the literary genius Daniel Defoe unwittingly pioneered what would later become the modern corporate world’s most thriving management philosophy – Lean Leadershit. His timeless tale of a castaway’s ingenious sloth set the standard for today’s C-suite leaders.

For those busy leaders who have no time for Defoe’s seminal work, here’s an executive summary. The protagonist, Robinson Crusoe, was the quintessential model of resourcefulness. Stranded on a remote island with scarce means and limited headcount, Crusoe exhibited an innate mastery of prioritization and time management. Repeatedly, our hero would survey his overwhelming to-do list of objectives crucial to survival in his new kingdom, and decisively leave most unpleasant tasks to Friday – the name of his direct report. It’s here that the tradition of procrastinating the first four days waiting for Friday took root.

Crusoe recognized that top leadership shouldn’t be bogged down with mundane chores. He limited his work effort to just 20%, leaving the remaining 80% for Fridays – whoever or whatever they were. Meanwhile, Robinson the CEO could focus on the highest leverage activities like sleeping in, pondering his navel, inventing new corporate values and developing grandiose five-year visions of True Lean.

This smart embodiment of the 80/20 rule allowed our unlikely guru to streamline his efforts. By doing roughly 20% of the actual work, he could still reap 80% of life’s rewards. In Robinson’s time, that meant shelter and sustenance. Today, the ratio applies to the distribution of the salary fund, certifying the quality of achieved Leadershit.

This fusion of selective effort and performative leadership gave birth to a new management philosophy. We now observe the highest stage of this evolution: Lean Leadershit, where the two L-words have become inseparable.True adepts ignore 80% of emails, 80% of reports, 80% of employee concerns. They simply channel the Crusoan way – delegate with abandonment to Friday, then gesture vaguely at continuing the discussion “next Friday,” and so on. Lean Leadershit cultivates a refined absence of effort against the backdrop of continuously “Achieving Excellence” programs (googleBoeing” or “Rogers” or “Canada Post” for recent examples).

Crusoe’s proactive deferral of all critical responsibilities was genius force multiplication through strategic negligence. Not perfect, of course, but perfectly acceptable for the C-suite. Why strive for 110% excellence when “good enough” suffices at 1/5 of the effort? This is the essence of Lean Leadershit.

So raise a glass – not to Robinson Crusoe, but to Friday, the innocent little guy who, through relentless effort, tenacity and dedication, makes Lean Leadershit thrive. So that more than once a week, all “leaders” among us can say with admiration and relief, TGIF!


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