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No, I’m not talking about a leader who is overactive on Instagram. Hyperopia is the medical term for farsightedness, or the inability to focus on things that are right in front of us. Whether you worship at the temple of Jobs, or have gone from good to great, fallen or lasted with Collins, you will already be familiar with the emphasis on vision as a prerequisite for leadership. But tripping over the details can bring even the most visionary leaders down.

Recently Obama showed symptoms of Hyperopic Leader Syndrome when the White House scrambled to articulate it’s position on NSA operations and or the extent of the problems launching the government’s health insurance website. Are you the type of leader who spends too much time focused on the horizon, on not enough on the details right in front of you?

Here are a few tips to fight off Hyperopic Leader Syndrome:

  1. Hire detail-obsessed staff: use awareness of your strengths and weaknesses to recruit team members who are going to race to check if the table on slide 37 ties to the bulleted list on slide 16 way before you do.
  2. Create a culture that rewards catching errors early: we all make decisions balancing risks and rewards, and leaders have the opportunity to build a reward structure to encourage employees to raise risks for attention and action. This approach has been translated from aviation to healthcare, and a Cambridge restaurant’s motto of “we love new mistakes” sets the tone for new employees.
  3. Run a monthly “Dr Pepper Test”: either on  your own or with a trusted colleague, run through your portfolio of accounts/projects and ask “what’s the worst that could happen?” As a simplification of failure mode analysis, create a list of the potential ways a project or account could fail, how you would test for leading indicators and put mitigating actions in place.

Armed with this knowledge, we can fight to find a cure for Hyperopic Leader Syndrome.

What experience do you have with Hyperopic Leaders? What other techniques have helped you prevent it? Leave a comment and let us know.
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