The Focus Driven Leader

Provost Blog


The Focus Driven Leader

July 19, 2012

In difficult times, organizational leaders must be strong leaders. It takes courage and self-sacrifice with an enormous amount of dedication to drive organizations to reach their potential. As the economy continues to exhibit volatility and leaders have a hard time predicting new environmental threats, self-control and discipline become the operational norms for senior leaders.

Leaders who are really concerned about the well-being of the organization, don't spend a lot of time worrying about whether they are liked, but rather stay focused on the long-term viability and success of the organization.

Leaders today must be absorbed with setting and maintaining direction, keeping the organization focused, building a talented team, and being willing to stand alone if necessary to make tough decisions.

The Four Marks of the Focus Driven Leader

  1. Higher Purpose
    • Leads with a higher purpose in mind to fulfill organizational mission and vision.
    • Leaders who are driven by a higher purpose are only satisfied if the organization achieves its profit goals and makes a difference in the lives of its employees and consumers. These selfless leaders are sacrificial and do not seek recognition or fanfare and are usually just as happy not being in the limelight. But you'll find they are fiercely competitive and loyal to their company.
  2. Independent and Decisive
    • Leads with wisdom, selflessness, courage and decisiveness.
    • Leaders make decisions.  Speed of decision-making and a willingness to make hard decisions are a basic pre-requisite for strong leadership. Empirical evidence, understanding the context, careful evaluation, input, and experience are some factors needed to make effective decisions.  Effective leaders are willing to be decisive, do not pass the buck, and do not put off decisions.  Establishing consensus has no place in how leadership teams practice effective decision-making.  Good leaders need to periodically remind leadership teams that true leaders are not “democratic” but are willing to lead and make unpopular decisions.  Good leaders listen, build a case for their decisions, and make decisions which will sustain the organization and will propel it forward to meet production and financial goals.
  3. Team Builder
    • Leads through selecting, building, and empowering a championship team.
    • High performing teams win games. Talent is important but it is not everything. Having coached, I always enjoyed the challenge of taking a team with undeveloped and raw potential to motivate it to winning levels. Motivating people to perform at high levels in unselfish ways starts with leaders committed to professional growth, empowerment, and the development of a culture which genuinely values people, teamwork, and community.
  4. Focus and Discipline
    • Leads with passion, discipline and focus to accomplish organizational goals.
    • Focus is a skill that has to be learned, repeated, and refined. Since most leaders are driven to accomplish things and like to see results, taking time to start with the “big picture” is not natural. In order to focus, a leader has to step back and weigh which moves will produce not only the greatest but the right results. Not all work is of equal weight. The ability to see future direction, select the right actions in the right sequence, and then the willingness to stay the course takes discipline and resolve. Practicing focus will pay dividends and the more leaders practice focus the more confident they will become as they see game changing results.

Most senior leaders get absorbed with accomplishing tasks and division goals.  As time goes on, it is easy to be immersed in the daily grind and miss the big picture.

The focus-driven leader will take time to step back and view the terrain from the 30,000 foot level. Being disciplined to practice focus is energizing because the big things get completed in a timely manner and others benefit from the clear direction and record of accomplishment.

In today's tough economy, focus has become even more important to help leaders sustain growth and meet profit goals.

In summary, focus driven leaders lead with a higher purpose, are independent and decisive, are team builders and demonstrate focus and discipline.