Leaders Need Three Kinds of Focus

I once worked with a CEO who was paranoid about results, so much so that he never cared for relationships with those who delivered the results. The end results weren’t surprising – the intended results were never delivered because people either stopped caring or moved on. The loss was almost irreparable. Leading in a complex world is almost like a tight rope walk and leaders cannot afford to have singular focus on either task or relationship. They have to constantly strike a balance between needs of the context, their own needs and the needs of others.

In this 2013 HBR video (6.42 mins), Daniel Goleman explains why leaders need to cultivate their awareness at three levels and what they can do to improve upon these three areas of focus.

Here is the sketchnote version I created to capture the essence while seeing the video:

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Leadership Thoughts from Peter Drucker

I came across a book from Peter Drucker titled “Managing For The Future” published in 1992. The power of great writing is that it is timeless. I read this old book and still enjoyed reading it because ideas presented in the book (specially on Leadership) are still very relevant today.

The shape of corporate organizations has changed between 1992 and now. The nature of work has changed drastically too – we are out of factory model and into the knowledge-oriented one. But the core principles of leadership have not changed.

Here are a few excerpts from the book that I particularly enjoyed:

“And nothing is noticed more quickly – and considered more significant – than a discrepancy between what executives preach and what they expect their associates to practice.”

“The Japanese recognize that there are really only two demands of leadership. ONE is to accept that rank does not confer privileges; it entails responsibilities. The OTHER is to acknowledge that leaders in an organization need to impose on themselves that congruence between deeds and words, between behavior and professed beliefs and values, that we call ‘personal integrity’.”

Essence of leadership is not ‘leadership qualities’ or ‘charisma’. Essence of leadership is ‘performance’.

“The leaders first task is to be the trumpet that sounds a clear sound”

Okay, so what does this mean for me?

Good that you asked. If you are a manager or leader at any position in an organization, here is what Mr. Drucker would want you to practice:

  • Do what you say and say what you do. When you are a leader, people carefully observe you. People try to derive some meaning from every small gesture of a leader. Make sure that your gestures enable people to derive a positive meaning. Keep your promises and be as authentic as you can.
  • When you are a leader, you are here to ‘serve’ your people. You serve your people and enable them when ‘leadership’ springs from your heart. But when it gets into your head, that is where problem starts!
  • Leadership is all about performance. You, as a leader, have to build an integrated team and empower them to deliver great results. Leadership is a means to an end. We don’t lead because we want to, or because of our charisma or because of (a romantic idea of) power that comes with leadership. We lead because we seek results.
  • An ambiguous leader leads an ambiguous team. Clarity in thoughts, words and actions is one of the most important aspect of leading others. When you lead, people depend on you to give directions to them. If your directions are ambiguous, you will easily mislead them. Clear directions are the ones which clarifies expected outcomes, expected behaviors and establishes priorities, standards. Clarity also means that all decisions/directions are aligned with organization’s mission and values.

Most of what Peter Drucker mentioned in his book is more of common sense (at least from today’s perspective). Practicing them consistently is difficult.

Have a fantastic Friday and a happy weekend!