Inner, Outer, Other – The Focus of a Leader

Globalisation. Regulatory uncertainty. Industry transformation. Increased competition. The screen-age. 24-hour news cycles. We live in a dynamic time. Throw in the increasing dominance of Generation X and Y in the workforce and it’s no surprise that we are constantly re-assessing the leadership attributes needed for success.

Daniel Goleman, the author of Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence, believes some executives may be too fixated on the numbers. Meeting targets at any expense. That expense shouldn’t be empathy, he says. This is one of three kinds of focus Goleman argues leaders need today – the other two being self-awareness and systems awareness. Or what he calls Inner, Outer and Other focus.

Self-awareness is what keeps us in control. Leaders need to be able to manage their emotions. Adapt to the situation. Focus on what’s important and ignore distractions. They need to understand their strengths and weaknesses without being too self-involved. Empathy is crucial to relationships. Inspiring and motivating people. Reading people and circumstances and reacting. Systems awareness ensures leaders recognise the environment they operate in. The threats and opportunities.

While I agree with Goleman, I would add a fourth. Creativity. In 2010 the IBM Global CEO survey highlighted creative leadership as crucial to success. I would argue that’s growing in importance, not lessening. We need leaders with flair. Risk-takers and innovators. Thinkers who crush the box and embrace the impossible. Ideas are currency. Creativity breeds success.

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Kevin Roberts

Kevin Roberts is founder of Red Rose Consulting; business leader and educator; author and speaker; adviser on marketing, creative thinking and leadership.


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