Had a eureka moment the other day: The leader's job is to ensure that all their people are working on the right things.
Rather bland, but true, no?
Respect for humanity means I won't waste my team's time asking them to do stupid or wasteful things.
Here's an extreme example to illustrate the point:
One of the most vicious punishments meted out in the awful Soviet gulags was this:
Prisoners would go mad with the meaninglessness of it.
But consider how it parallels so much corporate work.
I've seen good, smart people doing much the same work -- at the whim of some executive, or to satisfy some absurd corporate rule.
"Dig out that hole! Now fill it back in!"
After a while people really do get twitchy. To paraphrase Winston Smith at the end of Animal Farm,
"Two plus two really does equal five..."
So those of us that are lucky enough to be leaders have to accept this heavy responsibility.
Use my people's time wisely.
They're not cannon fodder.
P.S. Check out Getting the Right Things Done for help on how to do this!