Five Ways Leaders Lose Their Focus


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 again.”

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 to you.

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?

Improper delegation

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 well.

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?

© 2014 Doug Dickerson


About dougdickerson

I am Certified Leadership Trainer, author, columnist, and speaker. Husband to Alicia, father to Katelyn and Kara, and "Pop" to terrific grandson Tyson. I am an avid photographer, love the outdoors, and like to travel. I'm passionate about sharing my leadership insights and helping people reach their full potential.
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One Response to Five Ways Leaders Lose Their Focus

  1. 03alwi says:

    Palmer’s story reminds me when I took part in my first Karate tournament. I had a training partner who was way better than I was. When the tournament ended I couldn’t believe that I had come out number one and he ended as number four. So I asked him what happened. He said he was leading in the fights but he always found himself imagining the fight was over. He was in celebration-mode before even the final bell. This guy could have eaten me for breakfast in the ring, yet I was the one who came out on top with the championship trophy and he left empty handed. Focus is key!


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