Focus and Staying in the Present

Photo Courtesy: Indian Express (from Google)

I have often wondered with a great deal of admiration how great leaders manage to be focussed (on a goal) while staying in the present.

The thought occurred to me again — when I watched clips of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent trip to Japan. Before leaving on his overseas tour, Mr Modi announced one of his most audacious and momentous decision — the Demonetisation of Rs 1000 and Rs 500 notes. Not unexpectedly — there was mayhem in the country. Many asked how could he leave on a foreign tour at such a critical juncture, while others felt it was a tactically timed departure.

Seeing the Prime Minister in the driver’s cabin of the Japanese Bullet Train (Shinkansen) or in the summit with the Japanese PM, Shinzo Abe — one would have scarcely believed there was so much turmoil back home. It could not be that the Prime Minister was oblivious of the developments. As indeed was clear from the first speech after his return (in Goa) — he had kept himself totally abreast of every detail with regard to the impact and reactions to the currency ban. Then how did he manage to cut himself off so well — is it merely by virtue of his acting skills?

Successful leaders learn to master two very vital skills that are required to maintain high productivity — while managing stress that necessarily go with a top job. These are how to be in the present and yet stay focussed on the big agenda. Mind you there is a distinction between the two.

For many of us — focus usually means getting consumed by an idea or task. But, that is a luxury people in high places cannot afford. There are multiple demands on their time and several priorities. Unless careful — one can easily slide to multi-tasking and spreading too thin that ultimately affects both productivity and effectiveness.

The intelligent and consummate leaders employ a different trick. They attend to the immediate but keep returning to the burning issue periodically without ever losing sight or track of it. Some psychologists believe — attending to problems after gaps actually help the sub-conscious mind to process information sometimes throwing up creative or lateral solutions.

I suspect Narendra Modi has a somewhat similar style of working.

That reminds me of an anecdote I had heard from a banker friend. He was negotiating a big loan with a flamboyant industrialist at his home — till late at night. The client would keep disappearing in between the discussions for short intervals. At one point the banker was really irritated and asked the industrialist — are you really interested in striking a deal ? To which the man replied nonchalantly — of course I am, but in the next room we are having another negotiation — for a race horse. I know — as an old friend — you will wait for me — but the horse owner won’t. No prizes for guessing who the industrialist was.

But, that is how successful people learn to juggle priorities and their life.