One of the key requirements of any aspiring leader is to maintain focus. Usually, focus is discussed as a tool leaders use to sift away distraction and maintain momentum on a team’s most important goals. However, an internally-directed focus is at least as important: You need to know where your leadership is most needed.
Over the last year, I’ve been innundated with leadership opportunities. At home, I’ve been serving as the Neighborhood Watch coordinator for a 1,600 home community, participating in a School Board delegation for minority student achievement, leading a group Bible study, and mentoring engaged couples through pre-marital counseling. At work, I’ve been leading my company’s Project Management community, an internal training program, and an intranet migration, all of which are after-hours. Then, I was asked to head up the PTA for my son’s school, and nominated as Vice President for our civic association. If I were to attempt to add leadership value to these other organizations, my already weary schedule would just crumble. There are so many “good” things to do, “good” organizations to join, “good” growth opportunities, even the highest-capacity player can’t do it all. So, it’s time for me to exercise some internal-focus. Just like applying focus on the job or for the team, I have to ask hard questions like
- “What is Urgent?”‘
- “What Is Important?”
- “Which relationships do I want to develop?”
- “Which activities best fit my highest priorities?”
- “Which provide the most overlap with multiple priorities?”
In my example, volunteer activities that increase quality/quantity time with my wife and kids take highest priority, since that is a constant challenge for us. For those roles that don’t make the cut, I plan on recruiting a successor, or at least a deputy, to provide continuity for the people that have grown accustomed to my being there. Of course it’s much easier said than done. I’m already fighting the urge to mope and whine about things I “should” do, teams I “should” be a part of, and so forth. But that’s the whole crux of the focus we’re trying to achieve: sift awy the “should do” to gain clarity on the things I “must” do. It takes work, but it’s work that you have to do, in order to hit the right targets and the right time.