They care about the big picture and the final edits.
We might call these two areas of focus “frame and finesse.”
Here’s the problem; leaders lose focus when they get pulled in too many directions. This is generally their own fault as they try to solve too many problems at every level of the organization.
If you’re the leader you will feel this when you find yourself in way too many meetings or included in every Slack/Teams channel and email thread. If you’re working with an unfocused leader, you’ll feel either micromanaged or ignored by them. Nobody wins.
For successful leaders the trick appears to be in embracing a ‘frame and finesse’ approach. The frame references the big picture and the finesse is editing the final product to that ensure it’s aligned with the vision. By leaving the day-to-day work to the hands of the operational experts leaders they gain back time and trust.
Putting trust in operational teams returns authority and autonomy to the infamously “frozen center.” Thawing out the center increases throughput and boosts morale.
Thought of through the lens of Simon Sinek Why, How, What model of concentric circles, leaders who spend a lot of attention on the ‘why’ and the some attention on the ‘what’, are inevitably going to assemble trusted teams to handle the ‘how’.
This might be controversial but I also believe that executive leaders should leave product level strategy and the definition of outcomes to their teams. While they should guide those conversations and ensure they are aligned with the vision, the actual agreements of what to build need to live with the product teams. But that’s another post.
Setting the frame is a combination of having a clear vision, (where vision is a combination of mission, purpose, and values) and the frameworks that provide the guardrails for the work. The finesse is the editing process that allows the leader to have the final say on aligning how the product meets the criteria of the vision. Finesse is not about last minute ‘swooping and pooping’ but rather asking “does this resonate with everything we stand for and get us closer to delivering on the brand promise?”
Being realistic, it’s unlikely that a leader will be both good at framing and finessing from the start. Even Steve Jobs took decades to hone his skills. Setting a clear vision while paying attention to the final output requires working at 30K ft and then 3ft all in the same day.
If you want to dig into this further, I highly recommend Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World by Gen. Stanley McChrystal.