A primary task of leadership is to direct attention…


In a recent article Daniel Goleman argues that (good) leaders must (learn to) direct or focus their own attention. There is a triad of attention you need to take into account:

  • An inward focus (self-awareness & self-control),
  • An others focus (cognitive empathy – understand another person’s perspective -, emotional empathy – ability to feel what another person feels – and empathic concern – sense what the other person needs), and
  • An outward focus (exploration of the ‘new’ and exploitation of the current).

Why these three modes of attention, you ask?

Goleman answers: “a failure to focus inward leaves you rudderless, a failure to focus on others renders you clueless, and a failure to focus outward may leave you blindsided.” (emphasis mine)

There is good news and bad news: Focus of attention can be learned and developed. However, today’s ‘wealth’ of information creates a poverty of attention (Herbert Simon, 1971).



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