I’ve found that one of the most important things an executive can do is to regularly identify the “issue of the day” for their company or their team or their group and to address it with urgency.
Peter Drucker refers to this as identifying “what needs to be done?” Ideally, it's one thing, but definitely not more than two.
The discipline to continuously have this in mind and to have the emotional intelligence to be able to accurately identify the issue of the day is difficult and something that separates great leaders from the rest.
The issue of the day could be a number of things: some are opportunities, some are problems, some are strategic, some are tactical, some are elated to business problems, some are related to people problems. An example could be launching a product that will create a large growth opportunity or retain a specific set of customers; onboarding new managers and making them into productive leaders or something as small as fixing a commission policy or plan that is frustrating for top salespeople. The key is the ability to recognize the issue and measure its importance and urgency in comparison to the hundreds of other burning issues that could be addressed.
One of the most difficult things about determining the issue of the day is that different people will often have different perspectives on what the issue of the day actually is. The board, the CEO, the executive team, the line managers will often have different opinions. Getting alignment here is crucial. And, just as important, if alignment can’t be gained across all relevant stakeholders, the executive must make the call on what's most important now and focus on that thing more than any other.