Elliott Jaques talks about time span of discretion — the time from a decision to when that work decision comes due — as a way to measure how “big” a role is. This is related to your personal time horizon, how far you can think into the future to handle uncertainty and complexity.
Lots of people disagree with it.
What’s interesting is how many CEOs provide support for it.
Thomas Sergiovanni wrote in the 1900s about a Wall Street Journal – Gallup poll that asked CEOs what the most important factor for advancement was, and what the biggest factor in getting fired was. Time span of discretion and time horizon come into play strongly:
Perspective refers to the ability of the leader to be able to differentiate between the tactical and strategic and to understand how they are related. One with perspective brings a broader, patient, more long-range view to his or her leadership responsibilities which enables the sorting of trivial from important events and outcomes and the determining of worth…. In a recent Wall Street Journal-Gallup poll, for example, integrity was the factor considered most important for advancement by chief executives of 282 of the nation’s largest firms in describing characteristics of subordinates. The number one failing of weak managers, by contrast, was limited point of view. Integrity suggests that the leader values something important and is able to communicate this value to others.[Sergiovanni, Thomas (1984). “Leadership as Cultural Expression”. In Leadership and Organizational Culture: New Perspectives on Administrative Theory and Practice, ed. T.J. Sergiovanni & J.E. Corbally (Urbanna, Illinois: University of Illinois Press), pp. 108-9]
The poll isn’t cited, so I’m not entirely sure which one it was. It is interesting to note that the much more recent Yale School of Management – Gallup poll of CEOs shows that while they trust the integrity of their subordinates, they aren’t so sure that they have the right people. Which the pollsters reports as “don’t trust their competence”.
The point about length of vision is interesting. The entire article tries to differentiate between tactical (short-term) vs. strategic (long-term) leadership.
Sergiovanni, Thomas (1982), “Ten Principles of Quality Leadership“, Educational Leadership, February 1982, 330-336. [PDF]