The key to success is to focus our conscious mind on things we desire
not things we fear. — Brian Tracy
Writing in Reader’s Digest, Carol Mann tells the story of golf
immortal Arnold Palmer as he recalled an important lesson about
self-confidence. It was the final hole of the 1961 Master’s
tournament, and Palmer had a one-stroke lead and just hit a very
satisfying tee shot. Palmer felt that he was in pretty good shape. As
he approached the ball, he saw an old friend standing at the edge of
the gallery. The friend motioned him over, stuck out his hand and
said, “Congratulations.” Palmer recalls that as soon as he took his
hand and shook it, he lost his focus.
The next two shots he hit the ball into the sand trap, then put it
over the edge of the green. He missed a putt and lost the Master’s.
“You don’t forget a mistake like that,” Palmer recalled, “you just
learn from it and become determined that you will never do that
Learning how to keep your focus is an important leadership skill to
develop. But yet it is one of the hardest to master. Countless
distractions coupled with the never ending demands on your time make
it a challenge. How leaders lose their focus is important information.
Being aware of these common distractions can help you be a better
leader. Here are five ways leaders lose their focus and why it matters
Bogged down in the details
It can be hard to focus on the big picture if you are mired down in
the micro details of all of your operations. While it is important to
be in the loop you have to empower and trust capable people to help
you with the details. It’s normal to want to be informed but when you
are mired down in the smallest of details it begs the questions –
who’s steering the ship?
This is where many leaders fall short and where most of them burn out.
When the leader is of the opinion that he or she can do the job better
by themselves it could be causing more harm than good. Let’s make the
assumption that you have surrounded yourself with quality people who
are capable of doing the work associated with your organization.
Leaders lose focus when they do not empower these people to do their
jobs. Delegation at its best will allow you to focus your time and
energies where they are most needed. The secret is to empower and
release the people around you.
Lack of organization
An unorganized leader is an unfocused leader. It is not so much about
the proverbial cluttered desk as it is the personal disciplines that
bring order to your life. If you tend to fly by the seat of your
pants, if you are reactionary instead of proactive then these are all
problematic traits that cause you to lose focus. You can overcome this
by bringing order to your day. Keep a calendar. Schedule important
calls and appointments and stick to it. Beware of the “tyranny of the
urgent” and do not fall into the traps that can easily disrupt your
day. Strong organizational skills will keep you focused and serve you
The need to be a people-pleaser
In all fairness we all want to be liked. But if you are consumed by a
need to be liked, you will quickly lose your focus as a leader. Your
job is not to be liked. Your job is to lead. That being said, be
friendly. But be careful not to get to the place where you are
consumed about your popularity so much that it is affecting the
decisions you make and it causes you to lose your focus on what is
most important. You can’t lead with integrity if you make decisions
based upon whom it pleases or displeases.
Technology is great, isn’t it? The progress we have made in recent
years has made our world much smaller and our work a lot easier. I am
sold on the wonders of our technology. But take a look around your
place of business or glance around the conference table the next time
you are in a meeting. We are all wired up but in many ways are very
disconnected. Our technology for all of its benefits has contributed
to a strong lack of focus on many fronts. Let your technology serve
you but do not be subservient to your technology.
What do you say?
Doug Dickerson is a syndicated columnist. He writes a weekly column
for this newspaper. To contact Doug Dickerson, email him at