Businessman trapped under a dollar sign — Image by © Beau Lark/Corbis

“Technical debt,” refers to the extra development work that is inevitable when code that is easy to implement in the short run is used instead of applying the best overall solution. Developers can predict that they will have to repay that debt — potentially with steep “interest”— at some point in the future. This was the topic at last Friday’s Provisors Silicon Beach meeting.

As I listened to this tech-focused conversation, it struck me how perfectly this concept applies to business leadership and management practices. How often does leadership borrow time by shortcutting the clarity of the vision, the thoroughness of the strategy, the mutual agreements regarding roles and accountability, the development of skills and knowledge, and so on?

Be forewarned: As with technical debt, you’d best be aware that you are incurring “leadership and management debt” when making these expediency-driven decisions.  Quick implementation will incur the debt of a weak foundation, which will demand repayment at the most inopportune of moments and carries brutal “interest” when the bill comes due. But only 100% of the time.

Consciousness of the decision to incur leadership and management debt provides the opportunity to “make payments” on that loan, with intention and over time: doing the work of clarifying, strategizing, filling in roles, agreements, accountability, skills, knowledge, etc.— a far wiser move than the more common practice of denying the debt and then finding yourself with bankrupt leadership and management, too far gone to rebuild.