Do You Have This Most Important Leadership Quality?

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Circa September 1997

Steve Jobs is named the interim CEO of Apple. He looks around and sees the company which he co-founded, going downhill. Close to bankruptcy.

Apple had wide array of products – 12 different types of Macs, peripherals, the works. But they are not selling.

What does he do? He swings an axe on the number of products and reduces them to just four. One computer and one laptop each for 2 markets: consumer and professional.

Focus. Laser-like, Ruthless focus.

Daniel Goleman, who developed Emotional Intelligence, says “A primary task of leadership is to direct attention. To do so, leaders must learn to focus their own attention.” 

Can Focus bring massive success to your business?

Often an entrepreneur or a business leader has an idea or a project in mind and he asks the question “what do I do now?”

This bias for action must be preceded by the question “what is our priority now?”

This focus enables businesses from running in different directions.

While the jury is out whether core competency is a global model (some argue that in Asia, the success of conglomerates upends the western philosophy) there is no doubt that there are limits to human ability to focus on a specific number of things.

Gary Keller in The One Thing correctly points out that while there are two or three things you could do at once e.g. walking and chewing gum, you are able to pay full attention only to only one activity.

One of the aspects integral to leadership is that followers are looking to leaders to give them direction. What they seek from the leader is that singular galvanizing vision which the leader is sure will lead the followers to the promised land.

Related: 8 Questions to Refocus Your Vision and Achieve Success

In business, this often means choosing between different customer sets or multiple markets to service. While one would want to serve all customers, the reality is that the business can deliver a particular service and solution to a particular customer.

It is the leader’s job to bring this focus in every business unit. She has to funnel the various options into the one which will give the best result for the investment.

Can Focus work in today’s demands of a multi-tasking environment?

Harvard Business School Professor Leslie Perlow did an experiment with consultants with BCG. They had to switch off their emails for One Full Day in the middle of a work week. There were obvious howls and cries of how they will lose the business and clients want them to be available 24x7. However, the consultants explained to the clients how by switching off the emails they will use the time available for building quality material and tools for the clients.

Over the next ten months, the output of the consultants improved dramatically and the improved quality of work actually helped the clients and their satisfaction improved.

This does not mean that you go out and stop talking to clients.

But this does mean that you should deeply introspect what are the areas you need to bring Focus on.

Related: Stop Multitasking. You'll Get More Work Done.

Less is More.

Start with the personal and then move to the professional


How do you organize your day? What priorities do you ascribe to the never ending to do list?

I personally prefer to ask the question “What is the one thing which will have the biggest positive impact on my life?” then prioritize all your time to doing this first and then move to the next.

The answer to this question will change year to year and month to month. But at least this focus question will guide your days rather than ending the day by asking “what did I achieve today besides attending meetings!”


Apply the same question to your business “What is the one thing which will have the biggest positive impact on my business?”

Share this with your team and then organize all your workflow to delivering that One Thing.

When your team will come up with alternatives for business ideas, ask the question “Which of these will deliver the maximum value to my customer?” You heard it right. It’s not about maximum profits. It’s about maximum customer service.

Wield the Axe. Chop away the distractions.

Bring your attention to the One Thing.

Bring Massive Persistent Effort to deliver this one thing.

Reap the rewards of this Singular Focus.

Watch how you and your business grows to the envy of others.

What will you Focus on Today?