“Leaders don’t force people to follow. They invite them on a journey.”
As Buddha reminded us all those years ago, leadership is about influencing others. Yes, there’s a tactical aspect to leadership. Nevertheless, if you truly want to make a difference, you need to know yourself to develop your leader mindset.
Countless books and articles, including this one on CEO best practices, have been written on leadership techniques and leader mindset approaches. These days, most people agree that a people-centric methodology can successfully encourage everyone to collaborate. Ultimately, a leader can’t know everything and needs an interconnected team of people to maximize resources for optimal performance.
Why does it start with getting to know ourselves? The mind does a great job of making us believe that we are portraying our ideal selves all the time. Sadly, there’s often a disconnect between that image and external behavior. If you don’t know how to manage your emotions, your direct reports will either see a reactive person they become scared of or someone who hides behind a mask. Neither approach creates the leader mindset that motivates and drives people to be their best.
Instead, learn how to become self-aware so you can inspire others.
- Know your inner world – how well do you know your triggers and blind spots? Can you stay calm and still read other people’s emotions despite high stress? Self-management and empathy take practice and it starts by asking yourself what is causing you to think this way.
- Mindful awareness – a leadership coach can guide you to be present when you interact with others such that you build deeper connections. Mindfulness can be learned by practicing to use our senses to observe situations rather than overly rely on our thinking and interpretations.
- Practice focus – mindful awareness is another area for leadership development that will also lead you to focused attention. It’s also an essential part of psychologist Daniel Goleman’s work to help us be more effective with our leader mindset.
Know your people
How many leaders say they care about people as their top priority but rarely act as if they do? It’s easy to open up meetings by reviewing personal successes from the past week. Nevertheless, do your teams feel empowered to behave as individuals whilst acting for the good of the business?
The leader mindset you need should also promote a growth mindset. How can you use coaching questions to enable people to carve out their own development, for instance? Furthermore, some of the best leaders build a narrative that combines both personal development with the values and aims of the business as a whole.
How else can you promote collaboration and a growth mindset?
- Culture – can you encourage people to take smart risks so that they can learn from their mistakes or are you too focused on the bottom line? Whether this is through special projects or co-learning groups, balancing short-term profits with curiosity to explore options generates engagement. So much so, that employees are 34% more likely to have a strong sense of ownership, according to this Forbes article on growth mindset.
- Look for opposites – we often assume we know what people want or that we understand a situation. A great exercise, to develop the leader mindset type that side-lines biases, is to be curious about possible opposing views. Moreover, ask yourself how you can engage the community to further the possibilities and options available to you in any given situation.
- Feedback loops – all great systems work because they’re constantly tweaking according to feedback. It’s the same with highly functioning organizations. This isn’t about just looking for linear feedback from one person to another. It’s also about looking at the whole loop and the impact on the team, the department and the ecosystem. How do all the different points encourage or detract from learning and developing a curious leader mindset?
Balance Conflicting Demands
An interdependent organization effectively balances delivering tasks with leveraging relationships. A leader mindset can further enhance the system by looking for integrative solutions to problems rather than deciding one option versus another. This means promoting co-learning with shared exploration and constant feedback adjustment.
This contrasts with a dependent leadership culture where actions are dictated by those in authority. Furthermore, an independent organization operates on the belief that leadership comes from heroic action. Instead, an interdependent business works as a collective towards a mutually agreed vision.
How else can you foster a culture of interdependence?
- Relationships – what common traits and values do your team members have and how do these compare to the company? An interesting tool to align these is to define Key Behavior Indicators together. These identify the expected behaviors to achieve your metrics.
- Draw a loop a day – interdependence is a system’s method of thinking. The best way to start noticing all the different cause and effect loops we experience is to take a topic and draw a loop every day as described in these guidelines.
- Shared social identity – Once you know yourself and how your values and beliefs impact who you are, you’ll be able to create a shared identity for your teams. As this article on the new psychology of leadership suggests, the more you can create an ‘us’ around a shared story, the better you’ll influence.
What’s On Your Developmental Plan?
How are you going to become the role model of your ideal self? Will you start with identifying your values or by drawing a loop a day? Another approach is to let your teams tell you what culture and beliefs they align to by defining Key Behavior Indicators.
The more you know yourself and your inner world, the better you’ll be able to create a shared story and identity. Your teams will be more engaged and focused on growth, both for themselves and the community. Feedback and co-learning will become the norm as will being open to new perspectives. Furthermore, your teams will become skilled at balancing conflicting demands for the overall success of the business.