Becoming a More Focused Leader with Emotional Agility

Where did 2013 go?! Were the days of the past year a tornado of multi-tasking juggling endless e-mails, phone calls, hurried hallway conversations, and racing between meetings? Did you spend countless hours putting out fires and responding to one problem after another?

A major leadership — and life — skill in today’s crazy-busy times is focus. The month’s Harvard Business Review article by Emotional Intelligence guru, Daniel Goleman, “The Focused Leader,” is timely. Goleman starts by declaring, “The primary task of leadership is to direct attention.” Never has that been more vital than today.

“Focused leaders can command the full range of their own attention: They are in touch with their inner feelings, they can control their impulses, they are aware of how others see them, and they can weed out distractions and also allow their minds to roam widely, free of preconceptions.”

A November Harvard Business Review article on “Emotional Agility” provides further insights and how-to steps. Psychologist Susan David and mindfulness researcher and coach, Christina Congleton, advise that it starts with clarifying your personal values. Drawing on research from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), David and Congleton provide four steps to emotional agility — and focus:

1. Recognize your patterns. You have to realize that you’re stuck before you can initiate change.

2. Label your thoughts and emotions. Labeling allows you to see them as transient sources of data that may or may not prove helpful.

3. Accept them. Respond to your ideas and emotions with an open attitude, paying attention and letting yourself experience them. They may be signaling that something important is at stake.

4. Act on your values. Is your response going to serve your organization in the long term and take you toward being the leader you most want to be?”

It’s way too easy to get sucked into the busyness vortex. Breaking free calls for awareness, focus, and reshaping our habits.

For over three decades, Jim Clemmer’s keynote presentations, workshops, management team retreats, seven bestselling books, articles, and blog have helped hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. The Clemmer Group is the Canadian strategic partner of Zenger Folkman, an award-winning firm best known for its unique evidence-driven, strengths-based system for developing extraordinary leaders and demonstrating the performance impact they have on organizations.