Leadership is all about being focused. That’s the leaders single biggest priority. To determine where to lead to, and then to focus on that and move forward.

But what happens when the leader loses focus? Disaster.

See, the leader’s job is to lead others, not just themselves. So when the leader loses focus, everyone he’s leading suffers, not just the leader. We see this in the news every day, and we see this in our own personal lives.

A corporate leader loses focus on why the company’s there in the first place and instead thinks it’s to focus on stock price. Inevitably the employees will suffer first, and then the company. A church leader loses focus that the church is there to serve others and not themselves, and the congregation suffers first, and then the staff suffers. A husband loses focus on his role as family leader and focuses too much on himself, and the family suffers.

This last one hit a bit too close to home, and was the inspiration behind this post. I realized the hard way what happens when you lose focus.

The past several years have had their fair share of ups and downs. A LOT of downs. Throughout it all I kept going, thinking I was making some good decisions for the future and moving forward. I thought I was being focused.

And I was. But it was on the wrong things. Over time my focus shifted away from what was really important to the family, and more towards what was important to me. And what happened? Disaster.

I have been blessed with an amazing wife, and eight fantastic kids. My wife is brilliant, and without a doubt the most caring woman I have ever met. My kids are smart, loving, energetic, and just love life. And yet my relationships with all of them were at an all-time low. Why? Because I took my eye off the ball from what really mattered. I lost focus.

The leaders job is to look out into the distance and say “this is what’s important. Here’s where we as a company/family/church need to go.” And then they lead them in that direction.

I took my eye off the goal in the distance (raising my children, providing security for my family, making my wife feel loved), and instead focused on the short term goals, the low-hangin fruit, the easy things. The things that were important to me. And you can predict the result. First they suffered, and then I suffered.

So what does a leader do in this situation, when he’s realized that not only are the goals not being achieved, but that’s his fault, his failure? It starts with first recognizing the loss of focus, and admitting to himself (and others) that the failure to move forward is due to a failure in his leadership. And then the course correction must take place. The leader must first re-establish the priorities, the goals. And then they must re-focus on those. And then… and then they must do whatever is necessary to right the ship and get it back on course towards the goal.

This last part is the hardest, but it’s also the most essential.

It’s also what makes a leader a leader.

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