Your leadership mindset is one of the most important tools that you have. If your leadership mindset wavers or falters, you’re likely to slip into leadership behaviour that you’re not proud of.
Your leadership mindset is what will help you to be consistent, level-headed and to show up the way you want to every day.
This is important, because some days, we won’t feel like leading. We’ll wake up feeling tired. We’ll look at our to-do list and feel that sinking feeling.
Your leadership mindset is what will keep you going, even when you don’t really feel like it.
What’s the Big Deal About Having an Off-Day Every Now and Then?
It might seem fine to have an off-day at work. You know, those days where you just don’t feel like it.
And that’s nothing to be ashamed of. After all, we’re human. It’s hard to keep going relentlessly with the same drive, every day.
You might have an off-day once every two weeks, where you don’t feel motivated and you don’t achieve much.
That’s about 26 days per year where you’re off.
Imagine if you could cut that down to one off-day every month. Maybe every three months. Or even one in every hundred days?
Not only will you achieve a whole lot more, you’ll feel better while you’re doing it. You’ll show up as a good role model more often, and reinforce good behaviours with your people.
You will be in a better headspace to support your people. You’ll look after yourself, instead of putting yourself at the bottom of the pile.
That’s what a good leadership mindset can do for you. In this post, I’ll look at some ways to get you there.
Learn More: Are You a Consistent Leader, Or Keeping Your Team Guessing?
What Is This New-Age Hippie Leadership Mindset Rubbish?
Some of you will no doubt be reading this and thinking “What is this hippie nonsense?”
Improving your leadership mindset is not magic. A lot of it comes down to repetition and practice.
But if you’re not showing up in a way that you’d like to in your leadership, what are you going to do about it?
You could wait, hoping that things naturally get better by themselves.
You could continue to think negative thoughts, sit back and complain and hope it all turns out for the best.
That rarely happens.
So why not give some of these ideas a try for a few weeks and see where your mind goes?
Getting Yourself In the Mood to Change Your Leadership Mindset
Sometimes when you feel listless and unmotivated, self-improvement suffers. It’s at these times when it’s going to be hard to change your mindset.
You tell yourself “I want to improve my leadership mindset” and your brain will tell you “I can’t be bothered”.
It’s hard to change the thinking mind using the thinking mind. So sometimes we need to give it a bit of a jolt, a little kick.
There are a couple of questions I like to work through with my coaching clients, when they aren’t taking action (even when they say they want to).
Question 1: What Are the Consequences If I Don’t Do Anything?
This is a powerful question, because it focuses you on a negative outcome, that you’d like to avoid. Your instinctive answer to this question might be “Nothing much will happen. Nobody is pressuring me to change.”
So let’s look a little deeper.
Imagine a future where you haven’t made any change to your leadership mindset. You’re doing the same things, leading the same way.
But you aren’t proud of it and it doesn’t feel good. You’re not happy.
What would people think? Your partner, your kids, your friends, your team?
How would you feel about yourself?
Try to imagine a situation where you haven’t progressed, you haven’t improved and you’ve continued to struggle in your leadership.
See how vivid you can make the picture. What do you see, hear, smell, taste? What feelings do you experience?
Focusing on a negative future can be a powerful tool, because humans have a tendency to try to avoid pain.
And when you answer this question, it starts to become clear that you are heading to a negative place, because you are choosing not to take action.
This doesn’t seem like a good choice, and this can sometimes motivate us to get moving.
Question 2: What Am I Holding Onto, Which Is Stopping Me From Taking Action?
This is another good question to give your brain a jolt. Often, we know we should take action. We tell our friends that we’re going to quit smoking, get fit or meditate every day.
But we don’t do it. Why not?
Usually, it’s because we are getting something out of just staying the way we are.
Often the thing we hold onto relates to fear, discomfort and resistance.
Perhaps you know that you should take action to become better at dealing with confrontation. But you don’t do anything, because you know that will probably involve confronting your fears, which scares the hell out of you.
When we answer this question, we often find that the thing we are holding onto is giving us comfort. When we hold it up against the pain of staying the way we are, this can galvanise us to action.
Which pain is better? The pain of progress or inaction?
The pain of progress will lead to satisfaction eventually, but the pain of inaction may stay with us forever.
Learn More: For a good book about overcoming resistance, try The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield.
How to Improve Your Leadership Mindset
There are several ways I like to work on building a more positive mindset with my coaching clients, and I use them myself, too.
None of them are quick fixes.
It can take persistent, consistent effort to build your leadership mindset. But once you start the journey, you’ll wish you’d done it sooner!
1. Make a Commitment (or More Than One)
One of my favourite tools for improving someone’s leadership mindset (or any mindset, really!) are Daily Commitments. A daily commitment is a simple phrase that says:
“I am a commitment to … <doing or being something>”
You can have one daily commitment which you read out loud to yourself, or you can have many. It’s completely up to you.
Daily commitments are powerful, because they are tailored to your situation and what you’d like to achieve, or how you’d like to show up every day.
For example, if you knew that networking more would be beneficial for your leadership and career, you might have a commitment that says something like:
“I am a commitment to building connections with new people”
The power of this statement occurs when you read it aloud to yourself every day, at least once per day.
You are reminding yourself of your commitment each day, and this eventually becomes a part of your mindset, and your normal way of operating.
How to Make Your Own Daily Commitments
Here are some great questions you can use to develop your own commitments:
- If I reached the end of my life, what is something I would regret if I hadn’t done it?
- How do I want to be each day at work (or home, or wherever)?
- What behaviour, mindset or attitude will help me to reach my goals?
- What do I want to be really proud of, in my role / in my life / at the end of my life?”
Use your answers to shape a set of commitments that are right for you. Then read them out loud to yourself, every single day. Share them with others if you like – it’s up to you.
To learn more about daily commitments and how to use them, you can read more at the post below:
Learn More: How Daily Commitments Can Improve Your Leadership.
2. Remind Yourself of What Matters
Another simple technique which can help you reinforce a better leadership mindset is to set up reminders that prompt awareness of what is important to you.
These reminders can be physical or digital, it depends on your preference.
Some reminders that my coaching clients like to use have included:
- Post-it notes on the computer screen (great when working from home!)
- Apps like Randomly RemindMe, which lets you set random reminders on your phone that are triggered throughout the day.
Reminders are an important piece of the puzzle, because your mind will trick you. It will stop focusing on what’s important if you’re not careful.
It’s like if you worry too much, it’s difficult to just say to yourself “Stop worrying”.
Sometimes, you need something from outside of your own head to remind you. This is where the reminders come in.
What Should You Remind Yourself About?
I like to use reminders to target areas where I feel I need more focus. For example, one of my focus areas in recent years has been to “enjoy more, and worry less”.
I have a reminder that randomly triggers on my phone three times per day. The message is simple:
“What did you enjoy recently?”
It reminds me that I should look for enjoyment in the day, rather than focus on negative aspects so much. Over time, this has become more natural, with my mind seeking out enjoyment more readily.
Perhaps you often feel anxious or stressed at work. You might remind yourself to take a deep breath.
Maybe you find yourself working continuously, never stopping to rest. Your reminder might tell you to take a 10 minute break.
That wristband you wear (for example) can be your trigger, to remind yourself to be grateful for something in your life. Whenever you notice your wristband, you’ll remember to feel grateful.
Over time, your reminders will help to shape your leadership mindset and get it to how you’d like it to be.
Learn More: Thoughtful Leader Podcast #73: Why We Need More Mindfulness In Leadership.
3. Create a Positive Daily Practice
On a similar theme to the daily commitments is that of creating a positive daily practice for yourself. After all, we become better at things that we practice.
For example, if you avoid difficult conversations, regularly miss appointments or fail to push back on unreasonable expectations, then you’re getting really good at these things!
If you can create a daily practice that involves taking actions that reinforce a better leadership mindset, then you’ll train yourself to adopt that mindset more often.
If you find yourself constantly thinking negative thoughts, you might create a practice where you force yourself to write down five positive things, every day.
Taking things for granted? Perhaps you can try gratitude journalling every morning.
Need to take more breaks? Book yourself a recurring appointment in your calendar to take a break each day.
Perhaps you forget to greet your team in the morning because you’re preoccupied with your task list. Your positive practice might be to say hello to each team member, every morning.
You can choose the key areas where you feel you could improve. Then practice them.
Because that’s how you’ll get better.
4. Ditch the Unsupportive People
If your focus is to feel more positive about your life and leadership, it doesn’t help to surround yourself with negative people.
If you want to improve the culture of your team or workplace, it doesn’t help when you are surrounded by people who complain, but take no action.
A quote comes to mind here:
“You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.” – Jim Rohn
The more you associate with people who are heading in your direction, or sharing your commitment to improving yourself, the more motivated you’ll feel to continue.
Perhaps you’d like to become the CEO of an organisation. Some people in your life won’t believe you can do it. To be honest, that’s their problem, not yours.
The more you associate with people who drag you down, fail to support you or tell you that your goals are unrealistic, the more your energy will drain away.
Be sure not to confuse constructive feedback with being unsupportive. Sometimes our close friends and colleagues can tell us “hard truths” which we need to hear. But if it’s a constant theme and it isn’t helping, it might be time for a change.
You might need to make a hard call, and ditch some people. If you can’t stop associating with them altogether, then it becomes about minimising the time you spend around them.
Your leadership mindset will have the best chance to thrive when you gather the right people around you.
Learn More: Want to Vent Frustration at Work? Avoid These 5 Traps For Leaders.
5. Visualise the Future to Build Your Leadership Mindset
Another technique that can be useful for your leadership mindset is to visualise.
Visualisation is often used by athletes and other professionals to help them mentally prepare for an upcoming situation. Visualisation is powerful, because it can develop new neural pathways in your brain which help you to respond the way you’d like, in different situations.
For example, visualising yourself remaining calm in a stressful meeting can help you to remain calm when that meeting actually happens. Your mind will be ready, because you’ve prepared it.
When it comes to your leadership mindset, I find that visualisation is most helpful when you use it to prepare for an upcoming challenge or for a goal that you’d like to achieve.
Some examples of situations where you might visualise include:
- Difficult conversations: Visualising yourself staying calm, responding constructively and positively during a difficult conversation that is coming up.
- Presentations: Visualising yourself speaking confidently to an audience for an upcoming presentation that you need to deliver.
- Networking: Visualising yourself confidently greeting new people at a networking event.
You can read an excellent post about how you can get started with visualisation here.
6. Focus On What You Can Control to Strengthen Your Leadership Mindset
You may have noticed a common theme amongst all of the ideas listed above.
They are all about you taking action, to build your leadership mindset. These ideas aren’t difficult to implement, and they involve small, simple steps.
These techniques are all within your control.
They are about focusing on the inputs, and less on the outcomes.
You can’t force yourself to feel more grateful. But you can write down five things you’re grateful for every day.
You can’t always remember to take a break. But you can create a pink post-it note that says “Take a break, you deserve it” and stick it on your computer screen.
You can’t control the negative attitude of people around you. But you can stop spending so much time with them.
You can take control of the actions that will gradually improve your leadership mindset. Stop focusing so much on the outcomes, and focus on the inputs.
Incremental Effort Will Help You to Make Positive Change
I’ve been publishing posts on this website since 2015. Every week, I write a new article and post it.
How many readers do you think I had when I posted my first article? Close to zero.
What about the second article? One or two maybe, and that was probably my mum clicking on it twice.
Since 2015, I’ve been showing up every week, writing a new post. Now over 20,000 people read my articles every month.
Is it the biggest leadership website on the internet? No, but that number doesn’t really matter, because I’m focusing on the inputs.
The outcomes will take care of themselves.
Use the Sphere of Control to Help You
A useful tool for focusing on what you can control is the Sphere of Control. It consists of three parts, which you can see below.
First is the Sphere of Concern. This consists of all the things that we are concerned about or interested in, but which we have no control over.
Next comes the Sphere of Influence. This contains aspects we can influence, but are unable to directly control. This might include your boss, your health or your team members.
Last comes the Sphere of Control itself. This is the part where we can actually make decisions and take actions that are directly within our control.
You can’t guarantee that you’ll be healthy. But you can go for a walk every day. You can quit smoking. You can eat better.
The idea is to focus more of our efforts on the aspects that we can influence and control, and less on those we are simply concerned about.
All of the techniques described above are within your control.
So go and take control and improve your leadership mindset.
Where would you like to improve your leadership mindset? What actions can you take? Share your ideas with me and all the other thoughtful leaders in the comments below!
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