Mastering the 3 Areas of FOCUSED LEADERSHIP

3 Areas of Focused Leadership

“A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention” 

Herbert Simon, Economist


Mental overload, constant disruption, sleep deprivation, stress and a whole lot more can mess up your brain’s executive function. When your job is to make tough calls all day, every day, you need a sustained reserve of laser-like focus.  

We usually associate focus with being task-oriented – getting things done without distraction. As a leader, whose attention is in high demand, focus is not so much about task-completion, but about allocating your attention.  

When you feel like your attention is pulled in all directions and you can barely get by, grouping your attention into three areas – yourself, others and the world-at-large – can help you better manage your focus.  

A constructive focus on yourself and others is an essential element of emotional intelligence which helps you cultivate great relationships – a mark of a great people manager and influencer while a fuller and broader view of the world can help with being strategic and creative.  

As a leader, you must strive to balance these three areas of attention. Not paying enough attention to yourself could get you unhinged and too much focus on others could make you seem too needy, while a lack of outward focus could leave you oblivious of the world-at-large.  

Focus 1 – SELF  

Are you aware of your biases and how they are impacting your decision-making?   

Being aware of the judge, critic and censor in you then letting all that go, is important to keep your mental faculties focused on perceiving and assessing the objective truth. This advanced level of self-awareness is vital to good leadership.  

Leaders who are used to giving input rather than receiving and processing information may find this annoying. Some transcendent thinking is required – to filter the noise and fine-tune your focus on what is essential.  

“Cognitive control” is the scientific term for your mind’s ability to process information, guiding your decision or behaviour to act (or not) according to the better part of your nature. Cognitive control is at the centre of your self-awareness and your willpower. It lets you stay on track of your goal despite emotional distractions. People who have reasonable cognitive control behave calmly during a crisis, keep their anxiety in check and bounce back quickly from defeat.  


Leaders who can focus on others are well regarded for the quality of their relationships with subordinates and peers. Regardless of their rank, they lead by influence, inspiring the best out of their teams, connecting and bringing people together.  

Great leaders prioritise attention on the quality of their relationships by deploying empathy:  

Cognitive Empathy – Are you able to understand and appreciate another person’s perspective? How people think, why they do what they do, what works and doesn’t work for them.   

Emotional Empathy – Are you able to feel or relate to another person’s feelings? This ability is important for coaching and mentoring teams and for giving outstanding customer service by feeling what they feel and giving them what they need, fast.  

Focus 3 – STRATEGY 

Leaders who are outward-focused are great at envisioning a future of opportunities. They can connect present events to map outcomes and consequences well into the future.  

Great leaders focus on two elements of value creation. One is by “exploiting” current conditions to create future value. And the second, riskier and more demanding element, is by “exploring” new avenues for future growth.  

In a time where the same information is available to everyone, the real value is in your ability to focus on the right one so that you can deliver the best strategy and insight. 


Infog - the 3 areas of focused leadership


Learn to manage your attention, and lead your organisation with laser-like focus by signing up for our Leadership Events and Training Courses. 


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Check out these related posts — 


Executive Toolkit #1 Influencing  


Executive Toolkit #2 Navigating 


Developing Your Executive Toolkit by Dana Lightbody   

4 Strategies to Supercharge Your Professional Development

Here are 4 strategies you can do right now to super-charge your career.

It’s never too early to start planning your professional development goals and actions in 2020. Check out our lineup of courses and events to get ahead of career trends, expand your network and learn new skill sets. 


If you are looking to improve yourself at work, it’s time to go beyond what your company offers in the learning and development department. As work becomes more competitive, moving up to the next level requires a more proactive approach to training. 


Here are 4 strategies you can do right now to super-charge your career. 


1. Take a hard look at your skills  

What skill, knowledge, and experience gaps do you need to fill to be excellent at your current job and be considered to move up to the next level? There are three areas in your professional tool kit that you will need to check –   

Technical – the ability to perform specific tasks or the level in which you operate systems and applications to be functional at your job. For example, if your job requires some Excel skills, consider increasing your level from “basic” to “expert.”   

Communication – the ability to process, organise, and articulate information. Asking the right questions is an important communication skill. So is listening and understanding your audience and tailoring what you say and how you say it. How would you rate your writing skills? How about your presentation skills? Having excellent communication skills sets you up for success in your current role and beyond.   

Enterprise – the ability to create business value. You do not have to own a business to learn enterprise skills. You need to show real interest in how your company does business. Consider leveling up on skills such as spotting market opportunities, suggesting ways to improve processes, or coming up with new ideas to serve customers better. These are skills that employers will pay top dollar for.   


2. Get Your Manager’s Feedback  

Include your manager in your professional development journey by asking for feedback. Questions like – what does it mean to be successful in your position? What are your KSIs (Key Success Indicators)? What will it take to be considered for a promotion, and what is the timeframe for that?   

Receiving this kind of feedback is essential to your professional growth and should be an
on-going conversation with your manager.  If that’s not happening, understand the success indicators of your role. Identify and track your weekly, monthly, and quarterly targets so that you are well prepared when the evaluation period comes around.  


3Research your company or industry 

Keep an ear to the ground and find out the issues, threats, and opportunities that are of growing concern to your company. Then plan to increase your knowledge or competence in that area. For example, your company is grappling with a time waste issue, study up, and write a proposal with specific action plans to address it.   

You can circulate this internally or write a white paper and publish it. Developing your expertise in an area of increasing importance to your company or industry can be your ticket to a more rewarding career opportunity.    


4. Put it all together and map out a plan.  

List the 5 to 10 skills you need to develop in your career for 2020. Then identify the classes, online courses, books, and conferences you need. Lastly, take out your calendar and allocate the time to do them. A good rule of thumb when allocating time for learning is the 80-20 Rule. For example, block-off 8 hours out of your 40-hour workweek for training. 


“Plans are nothing. Planning is everything.” 

Dwight Eisenhower 


The irony of plan is that it’s useless and can only be valuable when you set it in motion.
If you have started on a plan, congratulations! You are one step closer to your goal and have defined in your mind the outcome you desire for your career. 
Now go and make them happen!