If you want to get more done in the same amount of time you have to add resources. Every leader there ever was has faced the immutable law that scope is a function of resources and time. To get more done, you must add tools to make yourself and others more productive and add appropriate people in different roles to increase capacity. The role to fill next is the one that provides the most important and most urgent leverage – likely contributors, managers, coordinators, deputies, and then chiefs of staff in that order.

At a high level,

  • Leaders inspire and enable others to do their absolute best, together to realize a meaningful and rewarding shared purpose.
  • Deputies are second in command, empowered to act in their leader’s absence.
  • Chiefs of Staff give leaders leverage by managing them, priorities, programs and projects, and communication.
  • Managers of units, functions, programs and projects directly manage pieces of the overall puzzle and are accountable for delivery of their unit, function, program or project’s results.
  • Contributors work for unit, function, program or project managers and are responsible for delivering their own work.
  • Coordinators administratively coordinate others’ efforts, but are neither accountable nor responsible – unless they are acting as program or project managers or contributors.

Regardless of title, people often wear different hats at different times.

One key is to understand each position’s accountabilities. In general,

Accountable: Overall ownership of results. Drives decisions. Ensures implementation.

Responsible: Does defined work.

Consulted: Provides input.

Informed: Kept up-to-date. (One-way communication.)

  • Deputies are accountable for the decisions they make in their leader’s absence.
  • Chiefs of Staff spend a lot of their time consulting and providing input, making others more efficient and effective across the enterprise.
  • Unit, function, program and project managers are accountable for delivering results in their areas and, in the spirit of bounded authority, make tactical decisions along the way.
  • Contributors are responsible for, wait for it, their contributions.
  • Coordinators spend their time communicating across the people within a project if they are the project coordinator or across projects if they are the program coordinator.

Now that you understand the difference between these various positions, how do you as a leader determine which you need next?

Contributors are your organization’s muscle, actually doing the work. Build your muscle before you do anything else.

Managers of units, functions, programs and projects are the heart of your organization, translating overall direction into unit, functional, program and project priorities and managing delivery. These are generally the highest leverage additions once you have enough contributors.

Coordinators add leverage by working behind the scenes to arrange and coordinate resources.

Chiefs of Staff are all about leverage. Their primary function is managing your priorities and communication. In these they are consulting (two-way communication) and informing (one-way communication.) Additionally, they may pick up direct management for priorities, programs or projects. When they do that they look like a manager.

Deputies are all about succession planning, capacity and development.

Your deputy is generally your designated successor. This is particularly true if your deputy has “deputy” in their title. If you move out for any reason, they should be ready, willing and able to step into your position instantly.

Deputies give you, yourself increased leverage. Deputies often have the title of Chief Operating Officer. Those deputies give leader’s increased leverage by managing operations. Alternately, your deputy could manage the organizational process (often with the title of Chief Human Resource Officer) or the strategic process (with titles like Chief Strategy Officer, CFO, CMO, General Counsel or others.)

You may choose to move someone into a deputy role to further their development. In this case, the deputy will not be your designated successor. Instead they could be being groomed for a different role. You might for example, transition a CFO from heading the finance function to serving as your overall deputy for a period of time to broaden their horizons before moving them into a business unit general management role.


Make sure everyone understands what their job is and is not, and how they should interact with others. In general, add contributors first to give you muscle and then unit, function, program and project managers to direct your contributors. Add coordinators to support them next. Then fill chief of staff and deputy roles to direct the managers.

Click here for a list of my Forbes articles (of which this is #660) and a summary of my book on executive onboarding: The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan.