Excerpt from Chapter 6 of ebook “Leadership—Perfecting Your Approach and Style” by Paul B. Thornton (on Amazon Kindle).

Baseball players must be able to catch and throw the ball—two related activities. Of course, how frequently they catch and throw depends on the flow of the game. In a similar way, leaders must engage in a number of related activities, so it’s important to determine their optimal leadership ratios. Here is an example.

Managing and Leading

How much time do you spend doing each of these roles?

Managers use current methods, procedures, and resources to get the work done. They want stability.

Leaders influence and inspire others to make positive changes. They want change.

We need both stability and change, but in the right ratio.

Too much stability and not enough change isn’t good. If you are not changing fast enough to keep up with the demanding, dynamic marketplace, you’re in trouble.      

On the other hand, too much change and not enough stability will produce chaos and confusion.

Finding the right ratio applies to many other leadership concepts, including:

  • Action and reflection—Are you more focused on taking action or reflecting on what you did? Reflection helps you extract the important learning from successes and failures.
  • Giving and receiving feedback—How much time do you spend giving feedback versus soliciting feedback from others? When you ask for feedback, it sets a positive example for your team.
  • Hard data and soft data—To what extent do you consider both the hard data (facts and numbers) and the soft data (people’s feeling) when making a decision? Do you have the proper balance?
  • Present and future—How much time do you spend discussing present problems versus future opportunities? Some leaders just focus on the what’s urgent—the crisis of the moment.
  • Talking and listening—What is your talk-to-listen ratio? Some leaders overdo the talking side of the equation. They have big egos and love to describe all the great things they have accomplished. However, every survey confirms people want a leader who is a good listener.
  • Task-focus and people-focus—Highly task-focused leaders have tunnel vision in their drive for results. They have little concern for the people. Not good! Focus at least as much on the people as you do the results.
  • Work life and family life—What type of balance do you have between these two worlds? What would you like to change?

What Is the Right Ratio?

Of course, it depends on the situation. The right ratio doesn’t mean a 50-50 split. Each situation is unique and requires proper analysis to determine the most effective ratio to use. In addition, situations are dynamic and fast-changing; therefore, you must be observant and flexible.

Here are some actions you can take:

  1. Establish your baseline.

Determine how much time you generally spend on two related activities. For example, in staff meetings, how much time do you spend discussing present problems versus future opportunities?

  • Determine what the ideal is.

In the current situation, how much time should you be spending in each area?    

  • Observe and study the best leaders.

What’s their ratio?  For example, how much time and attention do the best leaders give to the hard and soft data when making decisions?

  • Ask for feedback.

Develop a group of trusted colleagues and mentors who will provide ideas and suggestions on how to balance related activities in various situations.

  • Reflect.

Spend some quiet time thinking about one of your current ratios. What adjustments could improve your results? Experiment and see if your results improve.

Getting the perfect ratio in every situation is impossible. Rather, it’s important to keep making small adjustments to help you be a more effective leader.


Paul B. Thornton is an author and speaker. His latest e-books include:

  • Leadership-Perfecting Your Approach and Style-($1.99) Amazon Kindle. 
  • Leadership Case Studies-($4.99) Amazon Kindle. (available May1, 2021)

He has produced 28 short YouTube videos on various management and leadership topics.  

He can be contacted at [email protected].