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The Principle of Focus

November 28, 2010 — 8 Comments

I returned from speaking at a conference a few days ago and had a great time interacting with old friends and new friends.  I was able to do some teaching on leadership while I was there and had a couple of opportunities for some Q & A.

I made the statement during one of my messages that “the key to complexity is not simplicity, but focus”.

I have often made that statement about leadership and stand by it.  I usually preface that statement with the idea that if you are not dealing with some level of complexity then you are not really leading anything of significance.

A question arose about what I meant by focus over simplicity.  In the heat of the moment I didn’t think I provided a very credible answer, so let me try again.

Complexity implies that the leadership setting you are in carries multiple, and even competing, possibilities.

There are many things to which you can give your leadership energy.  The tendency is to fall prey to the urgent, which as Mr. Covey reminds us does not always include the most important priorities.

To try and simply aim for simplicity is not an option.

What is simplicity at that point?

It usually means to give your energy to that which is in the present tense and the most easily accomplished.

That can end up being an endless cycle, and an ineffective one.

Focus means picking among alternatives and giving your energy to only a few things.

The key to focus is leverage.

The principle of leverage stands behind the principle of focus.

Leverage is defined as “making a small investment to gain a high return”.

In this sense it is choosing the two or three things to give your leadership energy to that, when accomplished, will provide the greatest return towards gaining ground on your vision.  It’s knocking over the biggest dominoes that will cause a succession of other dominoes to fall without much effort.

Usually high leveraged, focused leadership endeavors, are future oriented and not urgent.

They are often people related.  This often requires saying “no” to the screaming needs and saying “yes” to those that only whisper to you.

Leading something of significance is never simple.  It is complex by its very nature.  This requires focus, which means thinking carefully about the highest leveraged decisions and efforts you can make.  This is good stewardship.  Lead well!

Last time I detailed some possible poor responses to complexity. Now I want to look at what it takes to get into focus–since focus is the key to solving complexity.

I believe that focus begins with knowing the right questions to ask to analyze the situation–first, which questions does a spiritual leader need to ask weekly?
1. Am I treasuring Christ personally? Am I helping others to do the same?
2. What is it only I can do?
3. What are the highest leverage activities I can be involved in today, this week, tis month? (These will most likely be issues of critical mass-investing in your team, funding issues, building partnering relationships, etc.
4. What are the systemic problems in the ministry? Keep asking “Why?”
5. What are the next steps in the mission?

Another critical component to getting to focus is a leader taking time to prayerfully consider his leadership. This can happen through weekly times of thought and reflection and through periodic personal retreats. Consider the following:
1. A reflective leader is a forward thinking leader.
2. A refreshed leader is a gracious leader.
3. A refocused leader is a refreshed leader.
4. A called leader is an enduring leader.

A third piece in getting to focus is prayerfully considering your team:
1. Who is on my team (paid staff, volunteers, partners, etc.)?
2. What are their gifts and abilities?
3. What is our sense of unity-relationally and in the mission?
4. Do they have clear direction?
5. Do they have adequate resources?
6. Do they appropriately own the mission?
7. If they are doing the best they can with what they have–what do they need to get better?
8. Are they experiencing Christ–personally and in community?

To sum up–the key to complexity is not simplicity but getting to focus. In my mind this is essential for every spiritual leader. To not lead something with complexity is to not be leading anything of significance. Complexity is part of the job–but so is a keen sense of godly focus.