Why Skilled Leadership Requires a Dual Focus




Larry Seal


Think back to when you were a kid, playing sports, learning a new skill - you certainly had at least a handful of different coaches over the years.

So you know that some coaches will prefer to scream in your face and run down the sidelines yelling until their voice is hoarse, others are cool and collected, only giving their perspective or advice when absolutely necessary. 

Depending on your unique learning style and personality, you probably had a better response to one type of coaching versus the other. In a perfect world, every coach would be able to strike a balance with their particular style and the person being coached, to best connect and communicate with the highest number of players. Leadership in your workplace is exactly the same. 

No two leaders are alike and no single approach is perfect for every person they must lead and influence. There is, however, a foundational focus of all of the most successful leaders.

Foundational Focus of the Most Effective Leaders

  1. Business intentions - In order to be successful, a leader must have a business and outcome focus. This ensures that the person/team will always consider the ultimate objectives, constraints, and impacts of the work at hand. They need clarity and direction to well define success and also the boundaries for delivery.
  1. People intentions - When you need a team of people to actually execute together to achieve a set of goals; the successful leader always considers how to create motivation, ownership, accountability, inspiration and ideally personal development along the way.  

The bottom line - both of these focus areas are crucial for great leadership. Leaders who only focus on one side of this equation create sub-standard work products and environments.  It's important to learn which area you tend to favor so that you can develop a more well-rounded and impactful approach to your leadership. The most impactful leaders we see have learned this lesson and it is wildly obvious as you watch them interact.  When you intentionally and effectively combine both your business and people intentions, you settle into what we call a dual leadership focus. This slightly more complex but wildly more effective approach will dramatically improve your leadership impact. 

This is what dual leadership focus could look like in real-time:

Imagine that you’re assigning a project to a trusted team member.  If you are focused on the business side of your leadership, you will focus on clearly communicating the needed outcomes and constraints to your team. You will rely on KPI’s and timeframes to make sure they understand the what’s and how’s necessary to complete the project. 

If you’re focused on the people side of your leadership, you are focused on ensuring that your team members feel inspired, trusted and accountable to own the project and find and drive creative solutions for completing it.

Both of these areas of focus bring powerful and positive elements of good leadership. Everyone wants clarity about the measures for success and everyone wants to feel empowered and  inspired. But each approach also has weaknesses. Clarity without inspiration often becomes drudgery, a mechanical focus on executing goals. Engagement and creativity unbounded by clarity of constraints and outcomes results in big wastes of time and effort.  A manager with a dual-focus leadership mindset would clearly communicate the project goals and constraints while also instilling accountability, engagement and ultimately creating a vision for success.

As you approach your next opportunity to guide a group of people or an individual try using a dual leadership focus. Map out what that means about what and how you communicate in practical terms. 

  • What do people need to know? 
  • What do they need to understand? 
  • What constraints are there?
  • Where have they had an opportunity to ask questions, make suggestions and bring their personal expertise and drive to this work? 
  • Where are people going to feel most engaged? 
  • How have you encouraged accountability and collaboration? 
  • How are you going to check in and monitor both business and people progress?

It is a little more work to ask a few more questions of yourself and others. It does take a little more effort to ensure clarity AND buy-in.  But isn't that EXACTLY what you want and need from your team members?  Extra effort, a little more thinking and  a little more focus on an outstanding impact vs just what comes naturally and easily? Of course it is!

Are you frustrated by a lack of balance in the leadership approach of your managers and executives? Schedule a call with EngagedLeadership today to start a fundamental and significant impact on enabling progress toward your organization’s goals. 


Recent Articles

Contact Us