Who was Vilfredo Pareto and what has he got to do with leadership?

Pareto was an Italian economist, who at the turn of the 20th Century identified that 80% of the land in Italy at that time was owned by 20% of the population.  His observations became known as the 80:20 rule or the rule of the vital few.

The 80:20 rule applies to many aspects of business and indeed life.  For example, the majority of the world’s pollution (80%), is currently produced by only 20% of the world’s population.  For many companies, 20% of their products realise 80% of their sales (or sometimes profits), and looking at healthcare typically 80% of a GP’s workload comes form just 20% of their patients.  In other words it’s the rule of the vital few

So what has the 80:20 rule got to do with leadership or leadership development?  The 80:20 rule applies to many aspects business and life and it also applies to leading others because as a leader most of your results (80%), will come from just a few (20%) of your priorities.

But what are the vital few priorities for leader?  Consider the following:

  • Developing trusting relationships with team members (and colleagues), by talking to them, getting to know them, and understanding their challenges.
  • Determining direction and sharing the vision with the team
  • Empowering and giving responsibility to others, but holding them to account for their performance.
  • Developing team members to improve performance and deliver the vision
  • Spending time coaching and/or mentoring staff.
  • Spending time on ones own leadership development and training.

The list is certainly not meant to be exhaustive but to serve as an example of how leaders need to prioritise their time to get their best results.

The challenge for many leaders is balancing ‘working in their team/function/business with working on their team/function/business.  Too often leaders get distracted by day to day tasks which become all consuming.

If leaders really want to leverage their team’s performance then it is vital that they ensure that the things that matter most do not get consumed by those that matter least.