Leadership Development

The Mindset of a Leader …may not be what you think it is.

Overwhelmed, stressed, burdened, feeling guilty…

What could be more important than the mindset of a leader, the way a leader thinks, reflects, and consciously engages with the realities of a business? It’s hard to imagine anything more critical than an effective leadership mindset in the face of this turbulent, ever-changing, chaotic world. Is it not?

But what is the reality of the mental landscape of most leaders? How about:

·     Overwhelm.

·     Stress.

·     A feeling of being burdened with impossible challenges.

·     And often, a sense of guilt that they are not doing more, in spite of working tirelessly on a treadmill of seemingly endless tasks.

 Does this seem familiar? I thought so. And this raises the question, “What can a leader do to function effectively, leading teams of similarly challenged people to achieve the mission of the business?”

 There is no one simple answer that will work for every person in every situation. However, there are a few principles that can make an immediate and significant difference in the mindset of any leader. Here, then, are three principles, and related inquiry, that can support the mindset of an effective leader:

 Clarity of Purpose. Take the time to get crystal clear about the purpose of this business and your own best role in serving that purpose. The question to ask is, “Why are we in this business and how can I allocate my time, attention and creativity to inspire others to engage effectively with achieving this purpose?” (Not, “How can I heroically suck it all up to myself?”)

 Focus. You know you can’t do it all, yet it is the tendency of leaders in senior roles to feel as if they ‘should’ and many leaders habitually take on responsibilities covering a spectrum of challenges that is far too broad, and often, ludicrously so. While ‘doing it all’ may seem heroic, it is simply ineffective, because it leads quickly to overwhelm and exhaustion. It will also effectively disconnect you from your people because you are too busy dealing with your own overwhelm.

Instead, leaders will better serve their organizations by consciously focusing on no more than three strategic questions to guide their choices regarding how they spend their time:

·     What is our purpose as an organization and does this really serve it? If not, why am I engaging with this? Is it just because my ego thinks I should?

·     How might I assemble a team of internal advisors to address this? How can I invite and lead others to deal effectively with this instead of robotically sucking it up to myself?

·     Is this strategic or tactical? If merely tactical, this is better delegated.

 Asking these questions before immediately sucking some task up to yourself is one of the most effective mindsets of a true leader. This inquiry will help you stay focused on what really matters and what truly fits your leadership role: leading by inviting others to step up and be great.

 Partnership Mindset. This is the mindset that truly separates the sheep from the goats. It requires the ability to see the organization as a web of potential partnerships, enthusiastically devoted to serving one another as well as customers and other external stakeholders. And it involves leaders asking one question, persistently, day in and day out:

 “How might I, through visible actions and authentic speaking, inspire and support effective partnerships throughout this organization to serve our purpose as a business?”

 Asking this question is highly effective because it underlines the reality that without such a web of effective partnerships, with all the players 100% committed and engaged, a major competitive advantage has been lost. And the cost of that lost potential is enormous. In the US alone, it runs to $350 billion per year.

 Without a real sense of caring partnership and connection, people lose interest, feel unsupported, disengage, and don’t enjoying coming to work. Invariably they end up in conflict with each other and thereby give an advantage to the competition.

 By ensuring that partnerships are effective and meaningful, the true power of a group of people can be harnessed and focused on achieving the purpose of the business, instead of engaging in internal warfare or dropping out.

 Business is a team sport and the most effective leaders see that everyone is a part of the team and everyone is a potential partner. This mindset is very different from the one that thinks, “It’s all about me and how much I can personally do.” Leading by example does not mean doing everything yourself as a kind of organizational hero. It actually means inspiring others to be heroic in their roles as partners who focus on serving the purpose of the business.

 So, potentially, the Mind of a Leader is a potentially a place of calmly, and consciously and methodically:

·     Staying Clear about Purpose

·     Focusing on what truly matters in a leadership role

·     Modeling and inspiring effective partnerships

 All this is of course easier said than done. And, any day you spend feeling overwhelmed, burdened, and burnt out is not going to contribute to the success of your mission, your purpose. You have a choice about where your attention goes, if you see that you have a choice. Not seeing that you have a choice leads to overwhelm, stress, burnout and ineffectiveness. That is called “blindness.”

 My suggestion: take ownership of your attention, what your mind is addressing and find out what happens when you start modeling an effective mindset.

 Remember that people do ‘follow the leader’ and if you are leading from an overwhelmed and ego-driven mind, your followers will copy you. You are perfectly organized to achieve the results you are currently getting. The pathway to getting different results lies not in changing external circumstances but in changing how effectively you address the things that show up at your door.

Be a hero not by taking everything on your self but by inviting and leading others to form powerful connections to each other and staying committed to each other and to the purpose of your business. That is the mindset of a leader: inviting others to step up and make a difference, in a context of meaningful partnerships.

It’s easy and normal to suck up responsibility to yourself for every challenge that shows up; it is more difficult to cultivate a mindset of powerfully distributing responsibility throughout a network of effective and enjoyable partnerships. One path leads to overwhelm and stress; the other leads to effectiveness and performance.

If you want to lead your team in a shared understanding of committed partnership, contact me and find out about “The Organization Workshop” an amazing experience of how leadership really works when everyone can see and change the system they are in. For many Fortune 100 companies, The Organization Workshop is a prerequisite for anyone on a leadership track. For more information contact:

Find out more about The Organization Workshop (Seeing Systems Workshop) here:

David Chard, coach, facilitator and author, is president of EngagingMinds Worldwide, a leadership development consultancy serving client organizations that are committed to developing conscious, caring leaders.