You wouldn't believe what I did last week, a friend tells me  upon his return from meetings in another city. 

Try me, I say. Well.... he says, I pulled up in the loading zone at the airport, hopped out of the car and dashed inside to drop off my luggage right inside the door as I always do.

But this time, they were doing renos at the airport and I had to take my luggage all the way down the length of the airport and drop it on the temporary belt instead of the regular luggage drop. On my way back, he says, I zip right into security and was through in time to sit and answer emails just before we boarded.   

Imagine my surprise, he tells me, when we landed and I turned my blackberry on and had SEVERAL phone calls from the airport at home. Yes, my car was still sitting there parked in the loading zone with the door unlocked waiting for me to dash back out and park it before my flight. Seems I slipped up with the task at hand.  In a big way. The car was towed, the Airport Security Officer looked after it for me and the story ended well. 

Daniel Goleman wrote in an article "The Focused Leader" Harvard Business Review December 2013, 
A primary task of leadership is to direct attention. To do so, leaders must learn to focus their own attention. When we speak about being focused, we commonly mean thinking about one thing while filtering out distractions. But a wealth of recent research in neuroscience shows that we focus in many ways, for different purposes, drawing on different neural pathways—some of which work in concert, while others tend to stand in opposition.

Grouping these modes of attention into three broad buckets—focusing on yourself, focusing on others, and focusing on the wider world—sheds new light on the practice of many essential leadership skills. Focusing inward and focusing constructively on others helps leaders cultivate the primary elements of emotional intelligence. A fuller understanding of how they focus on the wider world can improve their ability to devise strategy, innovate, and manage organizations.

Every leader needs to cultivate this triad of awareness, in abundance and in the proper balance, because a failure to focus inward leaves you rudderless, a failure to focus on others renders you clueless, and a failure to focus outward may leave you blindsided.

Back to my friend.  He said it freaked him out how something as trivial as the change of luggage drop challenged his entire routine and threw him off course. He said it was an eye opener that he needs to be very aware of his focus and not lose track of the task at hand in leading his group. 

Throwing everything off course with your focus entirely on the new luggage drop is just too easy to do and the ramifications to your team can be serious.  And no, he is not expensing the towing bill on this one - lesson learned.  

For more on focus and the Emotionally Intelligent Leader, check out Daniel's article. It's great. 



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