The second practice in Fromm’s The Art of Loving is concentration. I am drawn to the focused archer on the cover of Lisa Haneberg’s new book, Focus Like A Laser Beam. Thank you Lisa for giving me permission to use this wonderful cover.
The archer has so much concentration that she has become one with the target. The cover of the book reminded me of Eugene Herrigel’s 1953 classic on Zen and the Art of Archery.
To lead is to lose sight of oneself as we unite with our people and our target.
To develop concentration Fromm maintained that a leader needs to be comfortable being alone without distractions. Fromm’s book was written 50 years ago and our distractions have increased exponentially with technological time savers transforming into technological intruders breaking into our nanosecond span of concentration.
Fromm encourages leaders to practice meditating to increase their concentration or mindfulness. The following quote from Fromm reminds me of Jon Kabat-Zinn’s current work on mindfulness: one must learn to be concentrated in everything one does…the activity at this very moment must be the only thing that matters… things assume a new dimension of reality, because they have one’s full attention.
Concentrate on these 8 leadership questions:
1. As a leader where is your focus?
2. Are you able to concentrate on this article or are you already thinking of linking away?
3. When is the last time you “retreated” from leadership to step back, reflect, and gain a sharper focus?
4. In a sentence can you state your organizational target with vision and accuracy?
5. Do you fully engage with each person you lead to create a high-quality interaction that energizes both of you and demonstrates active concentration on the person in front of you at this very moment?
6. Are you easily distracted by tasks that interfere with your central purpose in leadership?
7. Do you find yourself in two places at once as your head is bowed and you become a “thumbody” typing out messages on your blackberry – disconnected from what is going on right in front of you?
8. Are you comfortable being alone without distractions and can you fully give yourself to the art of leadership as your concentration fuses you with your target and followers.
Here are 3 sources to enhance your concentration:
1. Read this brief zen parable about archery when your concentration is challenged. Can you take the shot when your concentration is compromised?
2. Read Mike Stock’s brief sports psychology piece on The nature of concentration. What can we as leaders learn about concentration from elite athletes and their practice of sports psychology?
3. Tune into Lisa Haneberg’s webcast on focus and read her book, Focus Like a Laser Beam. Practice Lisa’s invitations to excite and energize, tune your dialogue, and zoom in.
Alan Watts wrote a line years ago that has always stuck in my consciousness: If you make where you are going more important than where you are, there may be no point in going.
May the force of concentration be with you…here and in the next moment of leadership.
Next article: Patience and The Art of Loving.