How Should You Be Spending Your Time?

There are people who work in the construction industry who wear the number of hours they work like a badge of honor. If your crews are out there, putting in long weeks away from home, seven days a week — what is your role as their leader?

Some leaders want to be seen as working as hard or harder than their subordinates. Other leaders, who may be involved in many different businesses or supervising multiple work sites, don’t need to be seen as working harder: They actually are.

So how do you decide which tasks are most important for you as the leader, and how do you keep from letting the stress of leadership get to you?

Plus, being busy isn’t necessarily the same thing as being productive. It’s critical to prioritize not only your own work but that of everyone on your crew.

As their leader, when you’re working so hard, what is it that you should be working on?

Leaders and followers have different roles.

As a leader, said Willink, “you want to be looking up and out.”

He offered an example from his Navy SEAL mission days: “If I am holding security down a hallway, with my weapon, I'm in a hallway holding security with my weapon. I can only do that for about three seconds before one of my guys comes up and says, ‘Hey, boss, I got this.’ They don't want me doing that. They don't want me holding security.”

“They want me figuring out where the enemy is, figuring out where friendly forces are, getting the intel report from the aircraft overhead. That's what they want me doing. And that's what I should be doing,” Willink concluded.

One of the leader’s primary roles is to see what’s ahead that could affect the work of everyone they support.

On a construction site, as in a SEAL mission, each person has a specific job to do. Individuals and teams, united by their leadership, have their own personal roles to contribute to the success of the job or the mission.

While there may be a time and place for pitching in with your crew and simply getting a job done, generally, as their leader, your crew is expecting something different from you and your role.

Leaders look out for the bigger picture.

The leader is sitting at the top of the organizational chart for a reason: They need a longer view. They need to be able to step outside the individual tasks of their team members and assess potential gaps or required changes of direction. In short, a leader needs to lead.

Applying his earlier mission example to the dirt world, Willink asserts that what your workers want is for you to lead, not to join them in their tasks.

Taking the worker’s perspective, as they view the leader, “I want you to actually be out there finding our next job. Signing a new contract. That's what I want you doing. I don't want you down here pouring concrete with me. That's not what we need. I'm pouring concrete,” Willink said.


A leader’s role is necessarily more forward-looking than the roles of those they supervise, although a strong leader is always listening for leadership insights that may come from the front line.

The leader’s primary work is to keep the enterprise moving forward. As Willink noted, “I don't think it's surprising when the leadership of an organization is working really hard — to try and build, grow, find the next place that we're going to go into.”

If your team’s work is well thought out and assigned, there are plenty of people to pour the concrete and hold security, while you, as their leader, are focused on not only the tasks of the present but also the needs of the future.