Great Leaders Focus on Things That Matter


  • Refocusing on what matters
  • Re-energizing your work
  • Inspiring yourself and those you’re mentoring

Have you been feeling successful lately? Are you accomplishing everything you want to in life? Are you getting those promotions, raises and recognition for all your hard work? Or do you wish you made a little more money? Are there parts of your job you’d like to ditch?

In today’s world, it’s easy to get off track or focus on the wrong thing, leading to dissatisfaction. It sneaks up on us; we often don’t even notice that it’s happened. So is there an easy way to refocus?

A number of years ago, a short exercise that challenged people to refocus on the important parts of life circulated widely via social media. Many attributed it to Charles Schulz, the creator of the Peanuts comic strip. And though he probably only inspired it, Schulz often included philosophy into his work and brilliantly challenged astute readers to think deeply about life.

Here's how the quiz went: (Please give it a try, and share it with someone you’re mentoring.)

Read through and jot down one or two responses for each question:

  • Name several of the wealthiest people in the world.
  • Name the last several Heisman trophy winners.
  • Name five people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize.
  • Name the last five Academy Award winners for best actor and actress.
  • Name the last few years of World Series or Super Bowl winners.

OK, how did you do? Most folks have difficulty in answering all of those questions. The headlines of yesterday fade quickly. And even big achievements by supposedly famous people are soon forgotten.

With this in mind, Schultz then challenged us to work through a second set of questions:

  • List one or two teachers who made a positive impact on you.
  • Name two or three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.
  • Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.
  • Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.
  • Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.

How did you do on this one? Was it easier? The lesson is clear: The people who make a difference in our lives are usually not the ones who are famous or rich or powerful. The people who make a difference in our lives are the ones who care about us and invest time in things that matter. Being a friend. Teaching. Giving encouragement. Sharing joy.

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When you focus on things that matter and invest in other people, it’s immediately recognized. And that’s when you begin receiving invitations to be on that prestigious project team. Or your name gets submitted for an award or promotion. The authentic, caring person who is focused on what matters is actually practicing great leadership. And that gets noticed.

So the next time you’re feeling down, or if you’re feeling that you’re not accomplishing very much (per the world’s standards), refocus and remember this second list. THEN, go out and become one of these people on someone else’s list.

This is the key part of the challenge. This is where becoming a mentor to someone can be so impactful.* This is the part that will propel you forward and cause you to make an amazing, positive and perhaps life-changing impact another person.

And here’s the best part: Doing that will, in turn, make an amazing, positive and life-changing impact on you.

* Harvard Business Review (Aug. 9, 2019) – by Rick Woolworth. Great Mentors Focus on the Whole Person, Not Just Their Career. Available at:

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Here at Lead Read Today, we endeavor to take an objective (rational, scientific) approach to analyzing leaders and leadership. All opinion pieces will be reviewed for appropriateness, and the opinions shared are solely of the author and not representative of The Ohio State University or any of its affiliates.