Leaders and the Art of Undoing


“Leaders do.”

   “Do what?”

“You know, they do stuff.”

“They get stuff done.”


“See there goes one now, off to a meeting or something.”

   “Do they ever stop?”

“I don’t know, it’s kinda frowned upon.”

   “Well, how do they know if they’re doing the right stuff?”

“I suppose they get a raise or a promotion.”

   “That’s it?”


   “If I was a leader I’d stop doing so much stuff.”

“What do you mean?”

   “I think there’s too much running around.”

“Um, I don’t think they can just stop.”

   “Well, then maybe they should try undoing some stuff.”


When you think about your day today. 

And if you were really honest.

How much time was invested in leadership?

I’m sure there was much doing.

Doing and doing.

But how was the leading?

Who did you connect with today?

Who did you serve?


Ok, lots of activity towards goals and results?

Of course, that counts.

But take a closer look.

How much of it was mindless?

Rituals and routines with long-forgotten origins.

Time unexamined.


That most precious and limited resource.

The Art of Undoing requires a new relationship to time.

Be aware that how you live this moment, is how you live your life.

Start to pay attention to now.

“What am I doing now?”

“Is this the best way I could be spending my time?”

Give more weight to your intentions.

More balance to your decisions.

Learn to view time as your guide, not your master.

(Pause: Time as a guide, not a master – how does that change your perspective?)

A few considerations for your to-undo list:

  • Undo Busyness – You can start to undo things that aren’t really contributing to the kind of experience you want for your life. Things that aren’t contributing real value to the people you lead or to the organization. Things that might make you feel better in the short run but leave you exhausted and unfulfilled. You can press the reset button – unpack your schedule, unsubscribe from lists, uninvite yourself to meetings, unclutter your inbox, underperform on the trivial and overperform on what’s meaningful.
  • Undo Noise – As organizations, we can examine the activities, processes, procedures, meetings, etc. that consume  our collective energy and creativity. Often we don’t even recall why we started them in the first place. We can undo those activities that no longer make sense. Have an “undoing event” and invite everyone to share ideas on things it’s time to stop. Add “let’s undo that” to your corporate conversations. Reward undoing. You can undo a lot more than you think. Undo until it’s uncomfortable.
  • Undo distractions – Put down the phone. Close the browser. Quiet your mind. Do make eye contact. Do listen. Do focus. Do finish.


  1. Scott – I was reading your post quickly, until I hit the part about thinking about your day. You hit the nail on the head. Thank you for the thought provoking questions and reminders that to live a life of purpose we have to pause and evaluate and maybe even recalibrate.


    1. Thank you, Chery. It’s pretty easy to get lost in the trance of doing and preparing for doing and miss important opportunities. Appreciate your thoughtful contribution.


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