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The Leadership Six: 6 numbers that need to be front-of-mind for every good leader

Here are the most important Leadership Numbers we need to remember: 1-3-5 and 2-4-6.  Depending on the level of your leadership investment, there are two other numbers that may be important to you: 5 and 10.  More about those leadership numbers in a minute.  But first, the first three leadership numbers:


The first three numbers represent weeks.  A good leader is purposeful about the now and the very near future.

You and I need to know what the key are initiatives that we need to be mindful of this week.  How will our people be successful this week?  What specific accomplishments need to accomplished this week? Sean Covey, Chris Chesney and Jim Huling, the authors of the excellent book, The 4 Disciplines of Execution, call this “the whirlwind.”  Front-line managers and leaders of customer-facing teams don’t have the luxury of only thinking strategically – about five years in the future – we need to have a great deal of our focus in the here-and-now.

In the same manner, good leaders need to have the next three weeks in mind.  What will change between now and then?  How does the ebb-and-flow of our business impact later this month or early next month?  Are there any imminent changes heading our way that we need to be thinking about?  What will those changes do to our team members, our vendors and our customers?

Much of that same thnking also applies to the third number, five.  But five weeks out requires a little more foresight.  For many leaders, 5 weeks out puts us into next month’s budget.  What do we need to think about now to be prepared for next month?  What changes will occur between now and then, and how do we guide our teams toward those things?  What’s happening five weeks from now that we need to work into our schedule?


If 1-3-5 is all about leadership in the here-and-now, 2-4-6, which represents thinking about the next 2 months, 4 months and 6 months, requires us to get our eyes up.  Our team is living in the current season.  Each one of them shows up, punches the time card or looks at his/her outlook task bar and then starts to execute. Without your prompting, they live in the present state and only the present state. Those of us who are wired for leadership should also be thinking about next season.  What will happen between now and two or four or six months from now that needs foresight and planning.  If “turning a huge ship can be done with a small rudder” is the appropriate analogy (and it is), your minor adjustments in the here-and-now can have significant impact down the road.  What questions are you asking yourself as a leader about the short-term future of your organization?

Thinking about 2-4-6 allows you to live in the whirlwind while not living in the whirlwind.  It forces you to become more strategic and challenges you to become a better leader.

And that leads to the last two numbers: 5 and 10.

For many people in leadership positions, their responsibilities do not extend to thinking about five-to-ten years into the future.  But some of us do need to think about what the distance holds.  We own our own businesses.  Or we are high enough in our organizations that we need to be part of the future thought tank.  If that is true about you, don’t forget these numbers.  Don’t just live in the whirlwind.  Practice “High-Aim Vision.”

And for the rest of us?  Fight the fight to not live only in the present, leader.  Your effectiveness is not measure only in the here-and-now.  Lead in the here-and-now, and also get in front of things.  Practice your own version of 1-3-5, 2-4-6.  Your team deserves it of you.