Jumping into Tim Ferriss’ book, The 4-Hour Workweek, is like taking a cold shower. It’s jarring, but ultimately refreshing. Mr. Ferriss argues that you can work 4 hours a week and still live a rich life filled with travels, adventures, and fun. If you’re like me you might look at this book and have some very big doubts.
Yet they are quickly stowed away as Mr. Ferriss, a self-proclaimed lifestyle designer, begins to tell you his very personal story of how he went from being a 9-to-5 drone, to an 80-hour workweek leader, to a Tango champion with loads of free time.
Mr. Ferriss posits that anyone can follow his footsteps if they exercise the right degree of his unusual time management theories. What’s interesting, for the purpose of this blog, are his very clear and very powerful thoughts on leadership. Mr. Ferriss, a leader and CEO of BrainQUICKEN, believes two things are key to strong, able, leadership. First, he states, leaders should be able to delegate clearly and second, leaders should be able to automate their jobs.
It would be hard to disagree with the first point. Delegating tasks in a cloudy manner not only confuses you, the leader, but it will also lead to employee inefficiencies. The broader point Mr. Ferriss wants to hit home is that leaders should constantly refine their own agendas and tasks so they always delegate effectively. This is key. How many times have you seen leaders assign grunt work to staffers just to keep them busy? It’s in large part due to the leader’s inability to refine tasks and focus on important problems.
Mr. Ferriss’ second argument easily attracts critics. Mr. Ferriss states that automation should be the goal of organizations. Leaders should be policemen overseeing activity, not tollbooth operators slowing down traffic. While the automation of leadership may seem like a contradiction–why are leaders needed if you automate their function?–Mr. Ferriss’ point is more subtle. He’s asking leaders to take themselves a bit more out of the picture. Mr. Ferriss maintains that over the years he has established certain leadership techniques that let take himself outside of the corporate equation which has helped him increase profits. In other words, he isn’t micro-management’s biggest fan.
The underlying theme of Mr. Ferriss’ book will appeal to many since it endorses exploration and personal growth in the name of organizational productivity. He assumes that the key to establishing such freedom is in finding ways we can automate what we do. Mr. Ferriss, however, maintains that such automation requires much meticulous thought and must be done carefully. Keeping this in mind we can see that his solutions aren’t exactly applicable to every personality in every situation.
If you are interested check out the book’s companion website here or see his TED talk below. Although the book does a great job at purposing some great time management theories it loses its thread when it begins to explain the nuances of opening a online business in two short chapters. The book also, for the good or the bad, dismisses the hard work that is inherent in starting a new venture or idea. It takes lots of time to not only convince others of a new idea or business, but it also takes plenty of time to convince yourself. While the ultimate goal might be a 4-hour workweek, it will doubtless take many more hours to achieve it.
Often we learn much from provocative ideas. I can’t say I subscribe to everything in Mr. Ferriss’ book, but it’ll get you thinking.