The Bifocalism of Business Leaders

I’ve been privileged to serve as corporate counsel to a number of remarkable business leaders (working with some for decades) whom I’ve watched grow in wisdom and ability as they progressed through their careers. Whether they were growing their enterprises in good times, or preserving them in harder times, I‘ve noticed one trait that differentiates the Leaders from the Also-rans.

That trait is “bifocalism” – the acquired skill of viewing the same situation both up close and at a distance simultaneously. That term will resonate with women and men who have had to learn to wear bifocals. It is counter-intuitive and frustrating to master, articulating the head up a fraction of an inch to bring near things into focus, or down that same small amount to pull in distant objects. But after a while, it happens seamlessly as our brains learn to combine the two images in a single field of vision.

So it is with enterprise leadership, whether in the public sector or the private sector. When a leader can acquire the close-up vision to assess and solve the immediate problems facing his organization (cash flow shortfall, employee dishonesty, law suits, business disputes, supply chain disruptions, etc.), and not lose sight of more distant but important needs (expansion to meet market opportunity, business estate planning for generational transfer, protection of intellectual property, securing long term lending covenants, etc.), that leader stands in the ranks of the truly gifted.

That leader who has achieved a balanced vision of the company can bifurcate his or her brain to be intensely involved in the details and detached from them at the same time, all the while maintaining with the ability to self-critique in real time.

So is bifocalism innate, or is it learned? I think the answer is “yes.” The skill is innate but can be enhanced by creating feedback loops, such as using Trusted Advisors (those accountants, business lawyers and business bankers who already serve the business) as an ad hoc board of directors.

T. Jay Seale


About the Author: I began the practice of law in Hammond in 1973 as a solo practitioner. Over time I took in partners, hired associates and built what is now the largest law firm on the North Shore of Southeast Louisiana, comprised of eighteen lawyers whose skills are spread into many different practice areas, including general business representation, litigation in state and federal courts as well as ADR (Alternate Dispute Resolution such as arbitration and mediation of business disputes), and corporate consultation on business formations, mergers and acquisitions, and intellectual property. The firm also has three Board Certified tax and estate planning specialists. Ours is a full service law firm combining the legal expertise of larger firms in urban markets with the community values and virtues of a smaller, more personal practice. I’d like to invite you to contact us today with any questions you may have about how to implement or enhance your vision for your company’s future.