The Focused Leader – Part 1 of 3

By Renée Adams

February 5, 2020


Is Your Focus Dialed In For Effective Leadership?

focused EQ leader

A Tri-Part Series Discussing Areas Of Focus Necessary To Be The Effective Leader You Want To Be
As an adult, in 2001, I was diagnosed by a medical doctor with ADD, not ADHD, because I didn’t exhibit the hyperactive component. Today, ADHD encompasses both types and a combination of the two. Mine is the “inattentive type” rather than the “hyperactive/impulsive type” or “combined type”. 

So, managing attention is a skillset I use daily. Some days I do a fairly decent job at it and other days, not so much. Okay, I’ll admit it, there are still plenty of days I feel like I pretty much miss the mark altogether. I’m actually chuckling to myself in this very moment because I got up extra early, 4:10a.m. to be exact, to get product information added to my website, which I told team members would be done by the start of the business day today (my way of translating EOD yesterday).

And hmm, here I am writing this blog instead. Pinky promise; that task is next on by list, after I pour myself a second cup of java. According to stats, there are many of you who are reading this and can relate to the challenge at hand. 

It’s no wonder that when I came across the assignment to read Daniel Goleman’s article titled “The Focused Leader”, as a participant in the Goleman EI Emotional Intelligence Coaching Certification program, it… well, captured my attention. We all know a picture is worth a thousand words. The article’s image alone triggers one’s focus: 

A primary task of leadership is to direct attention.

One of a leader’s main job is to direct attention. And effective leaders must learn to focus their own attention. Most everyone leads in some capacity, whether we lead others in a corporate setting, professional organization, coaching a team sport, teaching, or as a parent to a child.

Being able to focus on something while intentionally filtering out distractions is necessary to show up as the best leader we can be. A wealth of recent research in neuroscience shows that we focus in many ways, for different purposes, drawing on different neural pathways—some of which work in concert, while others tend to stand in opposition, Goleman writes. And he groups these modes of attention into three broad buckets—focusing on yourself, focusing on others, and focusing on the wider world.

The first area of focus is being skilled at self-awareness, which is a primary element of being emotionally intelligent. In other words, directing our focus inward, as a leader, steers us in the direction we want to go, so we don’t find ourselves floundering in no man’s land. Here are 3 simple ways which will help you heed your inner voice and draw on more resources to make better decisions and connect with your authentic self:

  1. Pay careful attention to internal physiological signals like your heartbeat or feeling anxious which are messages about what “feels” right or wrong to us. This helps us hear our inner voice which can simplify decision making and guide our attention toward better options.
  2. Combine your experiences across time into a coherent view of your authentic self. Being authentic is a buzz word these days. What does it really mean? In part, it means being the same person to others as you are to yourself. It’s worthwhile to pay attention to candid feedback we get from others, particularly those we esteem. Ask friends, family and colleagues you trust what they think of you. How does what you learn compare to how you think of yourself?
  3. Have an open awareness. Take general notice of what’s happening around you without getting caught up in a particular thing. Simply perceive without judging, censoring or tuning out. This cognitive control enables us as leaders to pursue a goal despite things that get in the way and set us back. It’s also the same cognitive control we tap into when we stay calm in a crisis, manage feeling agitated, and recover from a debacle or defeat.

Be on the lookout for the second part of this series about focusing on others and how that makes us even more effective leaders! In the meantime, while we embrace these first steps for becoming increasingly self-aware, what are your thoughts? 



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