One of the key characteristics of an effective leader is the ability to pay attention. Leaders, unlike managers, lead the organization with vision and inspiration, according to “Leaders: Strategies for Taking Charge“, a landmark book on leadership by Warren Bennis. The leader needs focus in foresight to judge how vision fits into the environment in which the organization may evolve; hindsight, so the vision does not clash with the traditions and culture of the organization. In an ever-changing landscape, leadership mindfulness is becoming more imperative than ever.
Megatrends such as the growth of populism, eroding hierarchies to a self-reliant economy, and an unexpected coronavirus pandemic demands that a leader stay mindful and focused in a world of VUCA. Despite this urgent need for focused attention, a survey result by Garrison Institute found that 71 percent of leaders feel distracted from their current task some or most of the time. 67 percent of leaders survey view their minds as cluttered with thoughts and a lack of clear direction. While 65 percent found they failed to complete their most important tasks.
According to Thomas Davenport of “The Attention Economy”, attention deficit is becoming a norm in society. Davenport said that understanding and managing attention is now the single most determinant of business success. Good decisions are becoming harder as leaders get swarmed by back-to-back meetings to emails. Misplaced attention is enough to miss an important cue that could sustain long-term growth to losing a tough negotiation.
Leadership mindfulness, fortunately, can be learned. Mindful Breath’s Mindfulness-Based Strategic Awareness Training (MBSAT) is a next-generation mindfulness training for leaders and the workplace in Singapore. MBSAT trains our attention to recognizing cognitive biases and beliefs that obstruct our ability to make clear and wise decisions.
The equation for productivity in the attention economy is Focus x Time x Competence = Productivity. Without focus, you will spend more time on a task and your productivity will be negatively impacted. Although most leaders have an above than average ability to focus, attention needs to be continuously cultivated amidst the relentless flow of information assaulting the mind’s focus.