Leadership Distinction: Capability vs. Capacity

By Eric Herrenkohl posted 01-04-2021 08:16 AM


Leadership Distinction: Capability vs. Capacity

People who lead organizations have to be cognizant of the fact that the people with the most capability to get things done typically have the least capacity to take on more work. They are good at what they do, others trust them to get things done, and therefore their plates are full. However, as our businesses grow, these are the people we need to promote so they can shed less valuable tasks and take on more valuable ones.

I was talking to a business owner friend of mine who is very creative and a great salesman and promoter. In other words, he is great at coming up with new ideas, and terrific at promoting and selling them once they are in place. He is not so good at implementing new programs and definitely not the best at providing the follow up and accountability required to make sure things get done.

He is struggling - his business requires new offerings that generate cash. But he can’t seem to get traction quickly enough with all of his new ideas. So I asked him who the most effective Implementor/COO-type is on his staff. “Definitely Tom,” he said, “but he has too much on his plate running our most important program to take on more.”

No. The way to look at this is that Tom is the best, and maybe the only, person on his current team and he should be taking on more responsibility. Tom needs a promotion, Tom needs a team to whom he can delegate, Tom may need some other support, but Tom is our guy to take on responsibility for implementing the visionary ideas of this owner. In many ways, the fact that Tom lacks the capacity/bandwidth to take on these additional responsibilities is the indicator that he is the one with the best capabilities for the job.