Leadership Series (24) Why A Leader Must Be Focus. By Victor A. Imhangbe

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You can only improvise and invent by adopting a focus strategy, if you are thinking to update new ways of business operation, it should be through focus, the thought of changing a strategy and think ahead of your competitors is made possible through focusing on your core business, when you lack focus, you use greater energy to doing what is not relevance and leaving what is supposed to be key to your success. It is the inability to be focus and adopt a visionary strategy that made Nokia and blackberry of this world to loss significant market shares to their I Phones and Samsung counterparts.

The primary task of leadership is to direct attention. It is therefore very importance for leaders to learn how to focus their own attention to enable them direct others. Being focused simply means thinking about one thing while sieving out distractions. Let us use a Japanese auto giant as an example in terms of strategy. Toyota strategy is focus on Kanban: a scheduling system for lean manufacturing and just-in-time manufacturing (JIT), inventory is held by it vendors, their main focus is to improvise the engine which is their core competence, while sourcing other components from varieties of vendors. Every employee is obligated to share a degree of focus, each in their particular way.

A given strategy makes choices about what to ignore and what matters: Market share or profit? Current competitors or potential ones? Which new technologies? When leaders choose strategy, they are guiding attention. Another vivid example to demonstrate a focus leader is when Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, after having been ousted in 1984; because he wanted more resources to be spent on the Macintosh, whereas the board wanted to focus on the older but more successful Apple II which never stand the test of time.

Jobs return back to Apple when it was just a few months away from bankruptcy, the company had a dwindling 4 percent share of the PC market and annual losses exceeding $1 billion. Three CEOs had come and gone in a decade; board members had tried to sell the company but found no takers. Two months after Apple’s deal with Microsoft which was masterminded by Jobs, Michael Dell told a tech industry symposium that if he ran Apple, he’d “shut it down and give the money back to shareholders.” However, luckily to the shareholder it was Jobs and not Dell who was at Apple’s helm. (Brad Stone 2011).

How was it possible to revolutionise Apple to become a global brand? Jobs found a company with a sea of products: computers, peripheral products for computers, twelve different types of Macintosh. The company was floundering. His strategy was simple: focus. Instead of dozens of products, they would concentrate on just four: one computer and one laptop each for two markets, consumer and professional. Just as in his Zen practice, where recognising you’ve become distracted helps you concentrate, he saw that “deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do. He was unyielding in filtering out what he measured as irrelevancies. However, he was aware that in order to simplify effectively there is need to understand the complexity that you are reducing. A single decision to simplify, like his maxim that Apple products allow a user to do anything in three clicks or less, demanded a deep understanding of the function of the commands and buttons being given up, and finding elegant alternatives. (Daniel Goleman, 2014).

Knowing where you’re going and have a strong stated mission to lead people to that desire destination is a simple description of a focus leader. If you’re not sure, how can your people be sure? You have to have strong focus and stay the course. In social political and economic environment there are bound to be distraction arising from opposing interest groups whose diver’s interest may not be aligning with the original interest of the organisation or the wellbeing of the people.

It is the duty of a leader to learn to focus their own attention. When we speak about being focused, we commonly mean thinking about one thing while filtering out distractions. According to Daniel Goleman “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”. He went on to group this into three: focusing on yourself, focusing on others, and focusing on the wider world. This has gone further to sheds new light on the practice of many essential leadership skills. Focusing inward and focusing constructively on others helps leaders to cultivate the primary elements of emotional intelligence. A fuller understanding of how they focus on the wider world can improve their ability to devise strategy, innovate, and manage organisation.

In a nutshell, everyone aspiring or already occupying leadership position, whether political or nominated in the corporate world, needs to cultivate this triad of awareness, in abundance and in the proper balance, because a failure to focus inward leaves you rudderless, a failure to focus on others renders you clueless, and a failure to focus outward may leave you blindsided.

When we say a leader has “focus” we typically are referring to one-pointedness on business results, or on a particular strategy. Daniel Goleman listed the three focus areas for high performing leader as; self-awareness, People, and System awareness as discuss below:

THREE FOCUS AREAS FOR HIGH-PERFORMING LEADER

  • Self-awareness: Inner focus attunes us to our emotions and intuitions, guiding values and better decisions. The fundamental form of Inner focus, were identified as a “meta” ability and essential for running a company, in a survey of 100 CEOs. Among the competencies for star performance based on this inner awareness: emotional self-control in the form of recovering from stress quickly and managing distressing feelings; adaptability as circumstances change, and keeping an undistracted focus on goals.
  • People (other): Other focus smoothed our connections to the people in our lives. The core of other focus does more than help us read other people accurately. This focus provides the foundation for interpersonal leadership competencies like influence and persuasion, inspiring others and motivating them, teamwork and collaboration. The Inner and Other focuses underlie a leader’s emotional intelligence.
  • System (outer) awareness: outer focus let us navigate the larger world. The Outer focus, which helps an executive, read the larger forces that impact the organization: competitive threats, opportunities as businesses’ ecosystem shifts, the economy it operates in and the like. A keen focus here allows the formulation of smart strategies.

Steps to Becoming a Core-Focused Leader

As noted by Theresa Witham, a CUES senior editor, she highlighted; Doug Nielson four steps to becoming a core-focus leader as follows:

1. Become: In one word, who would you like to become? Write a core statement around that word. Then think of actions that will help you achieve it and when you need to complete them by.

2. Experience: What experiences would you have in your role in the next 90 days? Again, think of one word for the experiences; then write a statement based on that word and define the actions you need to take.

3. Contributions: What contribution would you like to make? How would you like to contribute in the next 90 days? Follow as above with the word, statement and actions to take.

4. Connection: Who would you like to connect with or connect with more in the next 90 days? This is about the relationships you want to improve or start.

The listed examples above have gone a long way to enable us to understand the concept of being a focus leader. Our next series will discuss why a leader needs to be passionate. Your opinion and feedback is appreciated on the comment column. Do you like the piece? It’s always good to share.

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