Can a Leader Be Too Focused?

Can a leader be too focused?  This question on its surface seems to almost be rhetorical because the response is clearly ‘no’. However, the current state of leaders today suggests many are too focused and pay the price in their families, health, social relationships, and mental stability.  Organizations are recognizing leadership burnout is an epidemic in their ranks, and leaders may not be too focused in general, but their focus is not in proper proportion. (Cannon, 2011, p. 307)

Bass points out the leadership continuum progresses with a growing focus on the follower and less focus on the objectives. (1985) Stone and Patterson (2005) further developed the continuum including servant leadership that focuses primarily on the follower. (p. 11) It is this human shift in focus that is also at the core of leadership vitality and self-care.  Too many leaders focus on the objectives that make up what they do, and few focus on who they are.  Authentic servant leadership calls attention to who a leader is, and what kind of person they are while carrying out their leadership responsibilities.  The vitality of a leader can determine effectiveness as well as longevity.

Leaders who develop their vitality have “honest, trustworthy, and generative relationships with those around them”, including those at home and in social settings. (Cannon, 2011, p. 309)  It is this vitality that challenges burnout and fatigue in a leader, and can offer a more fulfilling experience for the leader, as well as the organization and followers the leader serves.  It is not a question of too much focus by a leader, but a disproportioned focus.  A leader’s vitality comes from a focus on eating well, healthy relationships with colleagues, activity, proper sleep, strong social relationships, time for reflection, stress management, and family relationship quality.  (Cannon, 2011, p. 309)

Cannon, M. (2011). Do Leaders Really Need To Be Tired? A Sustainable View of Leadership Development and the Vital Leader. Inductrial and Commercial Training, 43(5), 307–313.
Stone, G., & Patterson, Kathleen. (2005). History of Leadership Focus. Servant Leadership Research Roundtable, (August).

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