A core role of leadership is guiding departments and individuals on where they must direct attention, therefore, lead by example and ensure you focus your attention.
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When we think about focus, we often mean placing our full attention on one thing and filtering out distractions. But there are three areas of focus you need to be aware of as a business leader:
- Focus on yourself and look inwardly and be able to steer and guide.
- Focus on others so you’re never in the dark about situations and so that you can care and grow others.
- And focus on the broader world, so you're never blindsided.
These three areas highlight different essential leadership skills: Focusing inwardly and constructively on others to help you as a leader to cultivate your emotional intelligence, and a fuller understanding of the world around you to improve your ability to strategise, innovate, and manage.
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Leadership is a vast subject area, but all research shows it starts with you. Emotional intelligence begins with self-awareness and getting in touch with an inner voice. Leaders who are mindful of their inner voice can draw on this to make better decisions and be authentic leaders.
1. Focus on self-awareness
Hearing your inner voice is merely paying attention to physiological signals. These are subtle cues such as gut feelings, and that knowing you have when something feels right or wrong. These hunches help decision-making by guiding your attention, though hardly fool-proof the more you use them, the better use of your intuition is made. The more your intuition develops, the more you trust yourself, the more decisive you become.
Self-awareness also encompasses you combining your experiences to create an authentic you.
To be authentic is to be the same person to others as you are to yourself, pay attention to what others think of you (particularly of those you admire and who are honest).
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2. Focus on self-control
Placing your attention where you want it and keeping it there in the face of the temptation to wander, aka ‘willpower’. How we focus is the key to exercising willpower. Psychologists say there are three sub-varieties of cognitive control:
- The ability to voluntarily disengage your focus from an object or task.
- The ability to resist distraction so that you don't gravitate back to that object or task.
- The ability to concentrate on a future goal and imagine how good you will feel when you achieve it.
In leadership, this willpower enables you to pursue a goal despite distractions and setbacks. Those able to have a single-minded pursuit of a goal tend to be better at controlling their emotions, making them calm in a crisis, ready to tame agitation, and able to recover from failures. As with anything in life, its down to the choices we make.