At many institutions across the country we are witnessing the great padding of the upper echelons of the organizational structure. CEOs are hiring more VPs, VPs are hiring more Associate VPs, and Associate VPs are hiring more Assistant VPs.

When you fancy yourself a big picture person, it’s nice to be able to hire someone to tackle certain problems. Let’s say your organization is having problems with return business (“customer loyalty”), for instance. Stakeholders are looking to you to do something about it. What better action illustrates that you are taking the issue seriously than creating a VP position dedicated to that issue and paying someone a handsome some to do it?

But here’s the problem. Often those VPs don’t see themselves as VPs. They see themselves as CEOs and Presidents. They say to themselves (and maybe even out loud), “I’m a big picture guy,” and then they hire someone else to actually implement those big ideas. And guess what. Those people they hire think they’re big picture people too.

Let me be clear. Having grand ideas and delegating are all good and well. What I’m hoping to bring to light here is that pushing big problems down the line so that “leadership” can concentrate on abstractions is not OK.

Big ideas are easy, and if you think you’re special because you’ve got a lot of them, you need to do some soul searching. The hard part is doing. Presidents, CEOs, and VPs who dismiss themselves from explicitly defining expectations and how to make those expectations a reality  are doing themselves and their institutions a disservice.

When regularly hiring czars to deal with problems is accepted into the culture, you wind up with a whole lot of ideas and very little getting done. You see organizations with people reporting to two, three, four, or more bosses. You see staff becoming increasingly frustrated because they are constantly being pulled in different directions. You see leadership diluting responsibility and buffering themselves from real problems. You see executive officers dispirited because all their big ideas never seem to come to fruition.

We’d all love to be big picture people. When people play that card, they think it gives them license to stop when the going gets tough. But if you really want to get things done, make a difference, and lead, you need to get your hands dirty, confront the details, and deal with the how.

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