Effective Leadership Starts with What We Believe
Some think that being a productive leadership is all about charisma and communication. Others believe it's all about vision. Still, others see strong leadership flowing from skills, techniques, or processes. I see all of these as essential components of good leadership, but without the right foundation, they will be counterproductive. I believe that to be an excellent leader; we must start with what we believe–we need to have the right mindset–one that motivates us to create with integrity the future we want with the people we lead.
Let me give you a personal example. Several years ago, I bought a new car that I enjoyed and valued. I came home one day, pulled my brand-new sedan into the driveway, and noticed my son Cory's car, the old family SUV parked in front of my car.
As I put my car in park, his taillights flashed on and began to back out. As I laid on the horn, he accelerated and backed right into me. It was a hard hit, although fortunately neither of us was hurt.
How did I respond to the situation?
In the split second I had to formulate my response, I realized I had a choice: I could have a reactor mindset, or I could have a creator mindset. I could yell at my son, ground him, and take his car away-all signs of a reactor mindset-or I could show him I loved him and that he was more important than my car.
I realized I could leverage the situation to create something positive. So I committed to having a creator mindset.
My father inspires me. As a teenager, a boat I was hauling broke free from the trailer hitch and careened into several parked cars. (Again, no one was hurt.) I called my dad to let him know what happened, and he said:
"Brett, call me back when you've got everything taken care of."
I wanted to teach my son the same thing. I wanted to share with him the importance of creating solutions to his problems. So I got out of the car, approached Cory, and wrapped my arms around him. My son had tears streaming down his face; I wanted to be there for him and let him know I cared. I wasn't happy about the wreck, but I knew I could hold my son accountable from a place of love and respect, where he knew he was more important than my car.
Later, I decided that Cory would take care of the logistics of getting the cars repaired and help cover some of the costs. This decision was a direct result of a creator's mindset.
What, exactly, is a mindset?
To understand mindsets, we need to start with what we do. Our actions are the result of our thoughts–in other words, what we think determines how we act. For example, when we say or do the right thing, but what we are thinking is more harmful, people can "read" our body language. And when we don't handle things well, but we care, people can usually see our good intentions. Our thoughts always leak out.
Our thoughts flow from our mindset-our collective beliefs about how things work. Our mindset may include an idea that we are more or less important than other people. If so, we are likely working with a reactor's mindset. On the other hand, if we believe that all people are all equally important and deserving of our respect then we are fostering a creator's mindset. If we see ourselves as a victim of circumstance, we are reacting, and we are likely to think that it is okay to lash out in anger at someone. But if we believe that we always can choose our response to our situation, we are positioned to create a better future.
With a creator mindset, leaders understand they are in control of what they think and do. They recognize that all people have innate worth and capability and that they can continue to learn and develop by showing respect for others. As a leader, deep respect for others, even when you disagree with them, can help broaden your sphere of influence.
Have you noticed that the most effective leaders are open to new possibilities and approaches? That they have a mentality of abundance and feel they can make a difference? That they genuinely care about the people that they work?
These leaders have a creator's mindset.
Mindsets form based on how we interpret our experiences.
In work and life, our mindsets come from our experiences. The brain interprets our struggles and tries to prove that our interpretation of them are accurate. That said, when we engage with other people, we do not necessarily see what is taking place below the surface. And this is why a creator mindset is so important.
Suppose that a coworker storms into your office. They drop a pile of paperwork on your desk, demand that you fill it out as soon as possible, and slam the door on their way out.
The "interpreter" in your brain may decide this person is rude. But with a creator mindset, you will come to realize they aren't a jerk. You'll recognize that they are likely dealing with something challenging in their life-maybe sickness or financial problems-and that they merely have a reactor mindset.
Adopting a creator mindset starts with aligning your actions with your thought and mindsets.
Our environment is admittedly complicated. To lead with integrity, we must align our actions with reality. For example, if you say, "Good job!" to one of your colleagues. If you don't believe they did a good job, this will create dissonance. We communicate our authentic thoughts through body language and other cues, and the inconsistency is not constructive. To lead with integrity, we need to align our actions and thoughts with a creator's mindset.
From there work to accept what you are experiencing as your reality and then choose a response to your situation that helps you create the future you want for yourself and your team.
There is more to it, but doing these things will give you a great start.
Do you have a creator mindset? As a leader, think about what you can do to become less reactive and more creative.