A primary task of leadership is to direct attention. Leaders tell us where to focus our energies.

But leaders need, too, to manage their own attention.

To direct attention well requires a keen grasp of where, when, why, and toward what we need to aim our awareness.

Leaders who do this effectively can soar, those who do not will stumble. 

The reason is simple. “Your focus,” Yoda reminds us, “is your reality.”

When we think of focus, we tend to think only of concentrated focus, but there are many kinds of attention.

A slight shift in our lens on emotional intelligence highlights how focus matters for leadership.

The emotional intelligence competencies that set the best leaders apart from average, it turns out, are interwoven with elements of attention, even at the most basic level of neural wiring.

Every leader needs a triad of awareness – Inner (self), Other (people), and Outer (systems) – in abundance, in proper balance, and with the flexibility to exercise the right one at the right time.

Too little of any one of these can make a leader vulnerable to being rudderless, clueless, or blindsided – or, worse, all three.


Excerpt adapted from Daniel Goleman’s book, What Makes a Leader: Why Emotional Intelligence Matters.

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