Leading with Intent: Navigating the Dichotomy of Working ‘On’ and ‘In’ Your Business

Estimated read time 3 min read

In the dynamic landscape of business leadership, a critical distinction lies in the approach leaders take to their roles. Are they primarily working “on” the business, steering its strategic course, or are they immersed “in” the day-to-day operations, addressing immediate challenges? In this exploration, we delve into the differences between working “on” and “in” your business, highlighting the importance of balance and intentional leadership.

*1. Working ‘On’ Your Business:

Leaders who work “on” their business take a strategic and holistic view. They focus on the long-term vision, setting goals, and crafting the overall direction of the organization. This involves strategic planning, market analysis, and envisioning the future landscape. Leaders working “on” the business are architects, designing the blueprint for success.

*2. Working ‘In’ Your Business:

Conversely, leaders working “in” their business are hands-on operators. They are involved in the day-to-day operations, handling tasks, solving immediate issues, and ensuring that processes run smoothly. While crucial for the business’s immediate functionality, leaders working “in” the business risk becoming entangled in operational minutiae, potentially losing sight of broader strategic goals.

*3. Balancing Act for Effective Leadership:

The key to successful leadership lies in finding the delicate balance between working “on” and “in” the business. Effective leaders recognize the necessity of both perspectives. They understand that strategic vision is essential for long-term growth, but they also appreciate the importance of operational efficiency in the present moment.

*4. Delegating and Empowering:

Leadership is not a solitary endeavor. Delegating responsibilities and empowering team members to handle day-to-day operations allows leaders to focus on strategic initiatives. This not only promotes a more efficient workflow but also nurtures a sense of ownership and accountability among team members.

*5. Strategic Thinking as a Habit:

Leaders who excel in working “on” the business cultivate strategic thinking as a habit. They regularly assess market trends, evaluate competitive landscapes, and revisit and refine their business strategy. This proactive approach ensures that the organization remains agile and responsive to changes in the business environment.

*6. Operational Excellence:

Simultaneously, leaders must champion operational excellence. This involves streamlining processes, optimizing workflows, and fostering a culture of continuous improvement. Leaders working “in” the business should constantly seek ways to enhance efficiency without losing sight of the overarching strategic goals.


Leading with intent involves navigating the delicate dance between working “on” and “in” your business. Recognizing the differences between these approaches and finding the right balance is crucial for sustained success. By strategically dividing attention between long-term vision and day-to-day operations, leaders can steer their organizations toward growth, resilience, and sustained relevance in an ever-evolving business landscape.

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