Leadership is About Attention

“We need to make it clear that executive presence doesn’t refer to dressing well and appearing unflappable, but to someone who is in charge of his or her own attention. You cannot command the loyalty of those who cannot command your attention.” — Doug Riddle, “Executive Leadership”


I work with lots of teams. I lead a team of my own. I think a lot about leadership and what makes a person worthy of respect and attention.

As a young leader, I used to believe everyone needed me to have the best ideas. Believing this was stressful and limiting. I was often paralyzed by the gap between what I knew and what I thought everyone expected me to know. Things moved way too slowly because everyone waited on my ideas to arrive and I waited with them because I didn’t know any better.

I have recently been working with the idea that a good leader doesn’t need to have all the best ideas. The good leader just needs to recognize the best ideas quickly and clear the way to get those ideas in use.

I appreciate Doug Riddle’s post “Executive Leadership”. He places the focus correctly not on decisiveness but on attention. Good leaders don’t simply decide things. They have learned how to pay attention to the right things, the right people. They pay attention to the needs and accomplishments of their team.  Good leaders are in charge of their own focus. They know how to focus their team. Good leaders know how to recognize problems and also untapped strength in their team. More importantly, good leaders know how to slow down and give their team the right attention. A leader who can listen will find the best ideas more quickly and help get those ideas into play.

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