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 Direct attention is one of the primary tasks
of leadership. Leaders must learn to focus their own attention. For that one
must be focused i.e. filtering out distractions. But recent researches in
neuroscience shows that we focus in many ways, for different purposes, drawing
on different neural pathways, which may either, work in concert or tend to
stand in opposition.

Grouping types of focus in three broad buckets

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Focus on self

Focus on others

Focus on wider world

Focusing inward and on others helps leaders to
have primary elements of emotional intelligence. Their ability to devise
strategy, innovate and manage organizations can be cultivated with focusing
wider world. It needs to be combination of all because failure to focus inward
leaves you rudderless, a failure to focus on others render you clueless and a
failure to focus outward may leave you blindsided.

Focusing on Yourself

 EI begins with
getting in touch with oneself i.e. his/her inner voice. Leaders who heed their
inner voices can draw on more resources to make better decisions and connect
with their authentic selves. Focusing oneself is an outcome of self-awareness
and self-control.


Hearing your inner
voice is a matter of paying careful attention to internal physiological
signals, which are monitored by insula, which is tucked behind the frontal
lobes of the brain. Its sensitivity amps up when focus is given on specific
organ, in fact how well people can sense their heartbeats has become a standard
way to measure their self-awareness.

People tend to rely on
their gut feeling, a message from insula. It has been found out in a study that
successful traders neither rely on their gut feeling nor on analytics. It is
critical for a leader to combine ones experience across time to get an
authentic view of one.

Open awareness which
come when you are authentic, where you perceive what is happening around you
and doesn’t get swept away by a particular thing. Being open to observe doesn’t
mean you will get the data.

on others

An external check for
whether you are self-aware is to match your answers about yourself to the one
with whom you had spent ample time.


“Cognitive control” or
“willpower”, a term for putting one’s attention where one wants it and keeping
it there in the face of temptation to wander. It also encourages executives to
pursue goals despite distractions and setbacks and also help them to manage
unruly emotions. It depends on how one focus, there are three sub-varieties

Ability to voluntarily disengage your focus
from an object of desire

Ability to resist distraction so that you don’t
gravitate back to that object

 Ability to concentrate on the future goal
and imagine how good you will feel when you achieve it.

Attention defines the
focus on others part, which helps in foundation of pillars of Emotional
Intelligence i.e. Empathy and building social relationship. Leadership
effectiveness on empathy can be classified on three distinct kinds depending on
where they are focused.

empathy—the ability to
understand another person’s perspective. It enables leader to explain
themselves in meaningful ways. Leaders require to think about feeling
rather than feeling the directly.

empathy—the ability to
feel what someone else feels. It is important for effective mentoring,
managing group dynamics. It comes out from cortex, which allows us to feel
fast without thinking deeply.

Empathic concern—the ability to sense what another
person needs from you. It not only enables you to sense what people feel
but what people need from you.


Focusing on others help you in building
relationships, social sensitivity which is related to cognitive empathy let us
act in any situation where you just follow basic etiquettes of behaving in such
a way that it puts other at ease. But, research suggests that when people
rise through the ranks and gain power, their ability to perceive and maintain
personal connections tends to suffer a lot. In fact when you map attention to
power in organization, the time that a person require to respond reflect his
designation in that company.


Focusing on
the Wider World

world refers to the environment, which is dynamic in nature. A leader need to
have strong outward focus in order to be in pace with the world. These leaders
are the visionary who can see the butterfly effect in place. It can be done
with focus on strategy.

Focusing on strategy


can either focus on exploitation of current resource or exploration of new
ones. Exploitation requires concentration on the job at hand which is
accompanied by reward, whereas exploration demands open awareness to recognize
new possibilities, where we have to disengage ourselves from routine and seek
to larger possibilities.


Key Takeaways

focused thinker is not “OR”-ing of self awareness, social empathy and
visionary, rather “AND” –ing of all these factors. Only when leader is fully
focused and aware of his surrounding then only he can be an effective leader.

Critique on the theory

As we have covered all
the realms of effective leadership, where it is aware of himself which helps
him understand himself and on the second part where he is aware of the
surrounding which helps him to cultivate relationship with people and at last
the visionary part where he can predict what steps will result in future
benefits. I couldn’t find any critique rather than the fact that information is
so much that sometimes what you expect does not reflect.

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