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How Do You Stay Focused, Part II: The Role of the Leader

Last time we talked about staying focused - getting those ... out of the way that keep us from ... what we want to. We agreed that life is full of ... and obligat

Last time we talked about staying focused - getting those distractions out of the way that keep us from accomplishing what we want to. We agreed that life is full of distractions-pleasures and obligations-that can pull us off task.

We studied the painting "Ulysses," by Draper ( )as an example of Intentionality, an emotional intelligence competency. I ntentionality means doing what needs to be done to accomplish what you set out to do. It's meaning what you say, and saying what you mean, and then taking the action steps that will bring the intention to fruition.

We focused on the sailor at the bottom of the painting, who's rowing with a Siren right in his face, so to speak. He's a member of the crew, a member of the team.

To reiterate, this is a painting of the adventures of Ulysses. It's his adventure! He's the man in charge. When warned of the effect of the song of the Sirens, he put wax in his men's ears, but not in his own. He had himself tied to the masthead, and there he is in the painting with that crazed look in his eyes.


Now the Siren's Song is a metaphor for "distraction". In this case it's verbal. What's going to stop these men from doing their job (singular, because now we're going to talk about a team on a mission with Ulysses as their leader) is something they will HEAR.

So the question to ask is - why did Ulysses plug up his men's ears, but leave his own open, while having himself tied to the masthead?

I think this painting is a good analogy of the workplace. The leader is part of the team, but he's also apart from the team. Whatever the current paradigm is for leadership, one fact remains: the leader has authority, and responsibility for the whole enterprise.

Whatever leadership style is in fashion, if you've worked on a team project or assignment you know that someone has to be in charge.

A good leader does and is many things, but ultimately the definition of the position is that he or she is the one responsible for making it happen, and to do this, he or she needs as much information about the whole picture as possible.

The leader, Ulysses has got to keep the BIG picture, the WHOLE picture in his head. Different members of the team have their own unique missions - in today's world let's say you have the marketing person at the table, the CFO, the HR professional and the outside Sales Rep. Each of these people has a key piece of information and expertise, but it's only a part of the whole, and what they bring to the table will be from their point-of-view.

As you know, if you've done committee or team work, this is where the clashes occur.

The marketing person says you must change out all the signage and redo the company brochure. The HR person says if you don't raise the salaries for the support staff, the company's going to go under. The outside Sales Rep says customers don't care about signage, they want better service of the product after the sale. The CFO generally says "there isn't any money."

So there you have it!

Been on a committee or team? You know what I'm talking about.

You may have even been solipsistic ( )without being aware of it.

To return to the metaphor of our painting, the different team members DO need to plug their ears in order to get their job done. If the marketing person worries about staff salaries, he'll be pulled off-task. If the HR person worries about the trials and tribulations of the CFO, then why have two positions? The team members both don't hear the "chatter" and shouldn't hear the "chatter".

The leader, on the other hand, MUST. It's his or her responsibility to know as much as possible, and to hear from each person and then make the decision.

The leader can't afford to "tune out". The leaders who are effective are able to 'listen to' both the forest AND the trees. Oops, that's mixing metaphors. The leader is like the conductor of the orchestra -- the drummer beats the drum, the violinist plucks the strings, the leader must coordinate the sounds so that together they all make music.


Furthermore, with authority comes privilege AND (as those who crave it often disregard) RESPONSIBILITY.

It's Ulysses privilege, for instance, not to have to row. It's his privilege to command ear wax in his rowers' (employees') ears. It's his privilege to allow himself to hear this alluring sound.

I propose too, that it's his RESPONSIBILITY. He needs to know what's out there - what this song is like - because it's part of the work
environment. He can't afford to turn away from information.

The price he pays is that look in his eyes, which I leave to your own interpretation.

The sailors don't have to go through this, having been saved by their leader.

Back to our analogy: The fundraiser doesn't have to be concerned about rising payroll taxes and insurance premiums. When she does her job, she focuses on raising funds. She is 'allowed' to play her unique tune with 'wax in her ears.' She is free to concentrate only on her part. Therefore she can come to the leader and say, "I must have X amount of dollars for Y in order to raise the money you need and this is crucial to our mission."

The director of the agency, on the other hand, has just met with the Program Director, who says that if there isn't X amount of dollars for Y program, the federal funding will cease, and the agency will fail.

MeanwhileScience Articles, payroll must be met.

Thus the look on Ulysses' face.

One last point: The song of the Siren was alluring. The leader both GETS TO and MUST listen to it.

Article Tags: Marketing Person

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©Susan Dunn, The EQ Coach, offers coaching and Internet courses on
emotional intelligence, and EI programs and applications for the work
place. Visit her on the web at and mailto:sdunn@susan for FREE "EQ in the Work Place" ezine. An emotionally
intelligent office culture will positively affect your bottom line.

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