I don’t think anyone would argue against the opinion that successful leaders have a leadership mindset. Where the disagreement, or more likely confusion, comes in is around what that actually means. Few words have more varied definitions than “leadership,” and when you add the term “mindset” to the equation, you create something many people vaguely understand and agree in theory is important but would struggle to articulate or make happen.
So, what is a leadership mindset? Psychology Today describes mindset as “the attitudes, beliefs, and expectations you hold that act as the foundation of who you are, how you lead, and the ways in which you interact with your team.”
Mindset is so critical because it drives every opinion you have, every decision you make, and every action you take. It influences the culture around you and sets the tone for your team. It determines whether you first seek to understand or rush to judgment. It shapes your decisions around how you focus your organization’s efforts on creating, marketing, and delivering your products and services, as well as the expectations you create for your team.
Now that we’ve defined it, let’s talk about the elements of a leadership mindset and how to develop one to drive your team’s long-term success.
Elements of a Leadership Mindset
1. Willing to Face Challenges Head-on
Leadership is tough. The very nature of leadership is that problems will arise and your role as a leader is to successfully help your team overcome them. Having a leadership mindset means seeing problems as opportunities and recognizing that every challenge provides an opportunity to learn and grow.
A true leader is able to keep their team focused on outcomes and prevent them from getting bogged down in difficulties. It’s about facing difficulties head-on and embracing the situation rather than hiding away or denying the issue exists.
A leadership mindset requires the ability to make decisions quickly, communicate them confidently, and stand behind them come what may. While impulsiveness undermines leadership, the ability to quickly filter through the information to make an informed and timely decision keeps the leadership team and the organization as a whole from getting caught in the mire of questions and fears.
As Scott Hoffman, co-founder of Folio Literary Management explained to Entrepreneur magazine, “In marginal situations, a decisively made wrong call will often lead to better long-term results and a stronger team than a wishy-washy decision that turns out to be right.” Sometimes what’s most important is just to keep moving forward.
People don’t follow individuals who lack confidence and are timid or overly cautious. Conversely, however, strong performers won’t follow someone who is cocky or arrogant.
People need to see humility in a leader, someone who will admit what they don’t know and work quickly to fill in those gaps. They are looking for someone who will own their mistakes and share with others what they have learned from them. A humble leader is one who values and acknowledges the skills and contributions of those around them and readily gives credit to the whole team for successes.
4. Ownership and Accountability
While successful leaders share credit for successes with the larger team, they accept sole responsibility for failures. They seek to understand what went wrong and why, then adjust their approach to keep it from happening again. They accept the fallout, whether it be from customers, investors, or those within the company, apologize sincerely, and set the team on a course to overcome the setback.
5. Look to the Future
A leadership mindset means becoming comfortable with change. When leaders get into a fixed mindset, they start to miss important developments and can very quickly fall behind.
Failure to look beyond the present to anticipate what comes next means organizations can lose market share, find themselves scrambling to adapt to regulations and changes in the business, and can even find themselves sidelined to the point of irrelevance. In today’s everchanging market, this can happen very quickly and must be guarded against by a forward-thinking leader.
Strong leadership means being open to multiple approaches and various sources of information. A growth mindset involves looking to industry leaders for direction and ideas, but it also means casting a wider net to identify varied sources for input and inspiration.
Successful leaders aren’t afraid to work with companies from other industries or even competitors when the right opportunity arises. They’re willing to learn from anyone and keep their eyes and minds open to solutions and approaches.
7. A Heart for People
True leadership requires a genuine desire to see others succeed. Leaders must show empathy when others are struggling, personally or professionally, and they can’t be afraid to “be cruel to be kind” when it’s clear that someone is unable to deliver the results the organization needs.
Leaders must openly praise individuals’ efforts and results while not being afraid to have tough conversations when people fall short. They have to recognize their responsibility to develop people and be willing to provide opportunities for employees to succeed or fail. Without a focus on developing their people and a true interest in those people’s success, they may find themselves surrounded by employees but without a cohesive team.
8. Honesty and Transparency
There are few things people hate more than being lied to. And while we justify lies of omission when we’re the ones doing the omitting, the victim of the deception rarely sees much of a difference in the severity.
Likewise, in business, team members want to know their leaders are being honest and open. Research on employee engagement has shown that leadership transparency encourages openness and transparency in others, is the key factor in determining an employee’s happiness, and leads to greater effort from employees. The bottom line is that when leadership is open and honest, employees in turn trust that leadership, and as a result, they work harder.
How to Develop a Leadership Mindset
So, if those are the elements of a leadership mindset, how do you get there?
Some people are generally further along in the development of certain areas than others. You’ll need an honest evaluation of your skills and traits to determine where to focus your efforts. A professional coach can provide evaluation tools such as behavioral assessments or a 360 leadership assessment to help you better understand yourself and how others perceive you. This will provide a great starting point as you look to grow and develop.
If you need to start smaller, take some careful, focused time to evaluate yourself on the elements of a leadership mindset and ask your friends, coworkers, and spouse (if applicable) to rate you on these criteria from strongest to weakest. Compiling those results should give you an idea of where to start, and you can find many books and other resources to get you started.
Whatever the case, don’t get so focused on where you’re struggling that you forget to capitalize on what you’re already doing well. Your strengths have gotten you this far.
If you want to take your leadership to the next level, now’s the time to work on your mindset and become the leader you’ve always wanted to be. If you need help, our team would love to chat with you. Contact us and see how we can help you achieve your leadership goals.