“A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention” –Herbert Simon, Economist, 1971
Shifting our attention to the right place at the right time enables us to lead well, and to attain desirable business outcomes.
However, “the right place at the right time” doesn’t always mean focusing on the prize to the point of disregarding the impact of your leadership style on the people around you.
Within modern workplaces, it has become all too common for leaders to race towards goals, and to behave blindly, running roughshod over people who are lower down within the organizational hierarchy. Whether this means giving orders and expecting certain results, ignoring smart ideas, or literally, just giving people less space and attention in a conversation, focusing on the prize at the expense of connecting with others ultimately stymies progress.
“Pacesetting,” as it’s called, reduces productivity, and trust. Employees who feel this approach radiating from their leadership tend to move laterally within organizations, or take their talent elsewhere.
Information overload and distraction contribute to our proclivity towards these approaches. When we feel like there are an unwieldly number of unwritten exams to ace, it’s easy to project the corresponding overwhelm onto lower ranking employees.
The solution and why it matters:
If we really take the time to connect with our inner selves, we can cultivate the forms of empathy and compassion that enable us to create quality connections with others. Focusing on the human dimension within the workplace reduces anxiety, driving creative ideas, engagement and improved results.
Leaders who are accustomed to making rapid-fire decisions and constantly giving feedback may find listening, slowing down, and genuinely responding to employees a tedious and exhausting task. However, turning a greater portion of your attention to others improves your leadership capabilities, and your success across the board.
In addition, “a sense of humor is part of the art of leadership…of getting things done,” as former US President Dwight D. Eisenhower famously said.
For more on leadership and attention, see this article by renowned behavioral psychologist Daniel Goleman.