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12 definitive traits of a leader: Part 1–Focus

Monday, April 25, 2022 | by Jeff Custer

This launches the first in a series of blog posts that outline the 12 definitive traits every great leader possesses. Coming in at number one is great leaders are focused. The dictionary defines focus as “(of a person or their eyes) adapt to the prevailing level of light and become able to see clearly” or “pay particular attention to.”

The first definition makes me think of a foggy morning. It you’re on the road and driving, it can be difficult to see very far in front of you and most of your surroundings are hidden. If you don’t slow down, you run the risk of rear-ending another driver. Usually, the sun comes up and the heat drives the fog away. Likewise, a leader needs to drive out uncertainty and the unknown to bring clarity. A leader lacking focus is like the car driver who can’t clearly see where they’re going. Problems are like the fog—it’s all around, encompassing, suffocating. A great leader is like the sun that drives away foggy uncertainty so they can focus on what lies ahead.

The second definition is one of priority. Great leaders separate the good from the bad, but more importantly, they separate the good from the better and the better from the best. In most organizations there’s no lack of things to be done or crises to manage. One of my favorite ways to reference this is to call it the daily whirlwind. The whirlwind never stops and if you get caught up in it, becoming and staying focused is nearly impossible. Leaders must rise above the fray of the day-to-day whirlwind and be focused on their key objectives.

Here are three ways you can increase your focus:

  1. Let your employees do their jobs. You hired (or inherited) them for a reason. Set clear objectives and then stay out of the way unless you’re asked for help. You don’t need to know every detail of everything that’s going on or interject yourself in every activity. Trust your team to do their jobs because they’re trusting you to do yours.

  2. Create an environment that limits distractions. Feels like a no-brainer to say this when you talk about focus—but it can be a challenge. Silence your phones, watches, email, social media, what have you. If you’re the type to block off your calendar, allocate time to send and answer emails and other messages. If you’ve got an office door, don’t be afraid to close it. And ultimately, what’ll help you succeed here is making sure others know that you’re setting this standard.

  3. Determine what’s really important to your success. If it doesn’t support your goals or ultimately lead to success—it’s not worth your time.

Your ability to focus is fundamental to your success as a leader. Burn away the fog clouding the road in front of you and ruthlessly shed activities that don’t contribute to your success.

You’ll start to see improvements not only for you, but for everyone on your team.

Come back for part 2/12 to learn how leaders motivate themselves from within.

. . .

Jeff Custer is a long-time leader at both private and Fortune 500 companies where he has developed and led both high performance individuals and teams. He is passionate about developing leaders and building high impact teams. Jeff resides in the United States.

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