4 Mindsets for Effective Leadership
Have you ever seen someone walk into a room and you immediately felt they were a leader?
They have a bearing that balances humility and confidence. They are sure of their opinion, yet open to others. They see people. They present an air of excellence without arrogance. They are firm and direct, yet tactful and kind. They are deliberate in action, yet adaptable to change. They are persistent, yet patient. They have a big picture perspective that knows what is worth applying their emotions too. They can smile when others frown. They shine brighter as a situation gets darker… and it’s then you know they are a leader.
Some people are born with it. But most aren’t. Most need to learn the mindset of a leader.
And most can no matter what personality they were born with.
1. Have a Mind to Present the Best Perspective
Truth is universal, but it’s understood through the variable lens of individual perception. This unique perception is the root of all human disagreement.
If we all saw everything the same way life would be peaceful, but so boring we’d have nothing to write or fight about.
This leads me to the point that there’s a best way to perceive any situation . Your job as a leader is to find it then show it to others through your lens.
For example, as a Marine, we heard cool stories of the attitudes that Marines should have towards adversity. One story about finding the best perspective is from Marine legend Chesty Puller, the most decorated Marine in history. He said during a battle:
“We’re surrounded. That simplifies the problem. They are in front of us, behind us, and we are flanked on both sides by an enemy that outnumbers us 29:1. They can’t get away now.”
Imagine the motivation and morale boost that his attitude instilled in the Marines that followed him. That is an example of the best way to show the truth to those you lead.
This isn’t rose-colored glasses or ignoring reality, it’s accurately perceiving reality, then applying the most effective attitude to thrive in it.
Applying optimism to reality is a leader’s duty, especially when reality is bleak.
Interpret then present truth in a way that doesn’t demoralize and demotivate those you lead.
A good leader meets adversity with will, confidence, courage, can-do spirit, and sometime even humor… as old Chesty Puller did.
2. Have a Mind Open and Adaptable
There’s only one way to be adaptable to change. That is to keep an open mind and willingness to change course if needed. Adaptability is a hallmark of excellent leadership.
That open mind is only possible when a leader doesn’t think they are always better and wiser than everyone else.
In other words, a humble mind is the most adaptable.
This also balances a leader’s presence. A leader who is only humble, but not excellent isn’t effective. A leader who is excellent, but not humble is partially effective. But a leader who is extremely humble and excellent is a balanced leader — the most effective kind.
Pride destroys adaptability — and lack of adaptation leads to failure. In this way, arrogance equals failure.
The most competent leaders I’ve ever met carried humility in one hand and excellence in the other to create a powerful balance of effectiveness.
3. Have a Mind That Can Travel Into Others
A leader has to be able to see things from the POV of the people they lead. If they’re stuck in their own POV, they only have half the picture — a limited perception of the situation. Half blind is half effective in leadership.
What makes a leader great is when they can feel what others are feeling and see what others are seeing.
This isn’t only good for leadership, but all relationships.
Developing empathy is critical to leadership development.
For example, in the Chesty Puller quote above. He knew his words would fire up his Marines because before he was a General, way before, he was a Private. He was enlisted first then became an officer. These types of Marines often make the best officers because they have the POV of those they lead.
But actual experience isn’t necessarily needed, you can walk in another’s shoes now without having worn them before. You just need to be able to mentally step into them by developing a sharp sense of empathy and having a habit of listening hard to people.
Always try to imagine yourself as another when you can. Evaluate yourself throught the eyes of others honestly. This will develop the empathy muscle needed for strong leadership.
4. Have a Mind That Knows and Honors Itself
A leader needs personality. But that persona can’t fully contradict the personality they were born with. A leader has to harness who they are into how they lead. You can’t completely fake being something you’re not forever, nor should you try living that partial lie. Instead, be yourself while adopting traits of leaders you admire, but always incorporate your self into your own style of leadership.
For example, if you are naturally shy, you don’t need to become an extrovert to be a good leader.
You can harness that shyness to be the leader that is who you are. Words may not gush out of you as you waltz in the limelight but the words you choose to say may be perceived as more thought out i.e. more value per/word. And this quieter nature can more easily allows the people you lead to shine, which is what a leader should do anyway. Embrace who you are.
Any personality type can become an effective leader.
A genuine and believable human being is the raw material for good leadership. You still need leadership skills, but you paint all those skills with your own colors.
Good leaders “know thyself” as the most effective people do. They know what makes them tick. They know how their own ego and moods can play for or against them sometimes. A good leader knows who they are and they respect it.
The most authentic you makes the best leader.
Leadership is a mindset before it’s an action.
You can be a leader without even being in charge.
Good leadership simply starts in your mind. It starts with who you are. It starts with how you interpret truth and how you show it to others. And it starts with an ability to know how others see and feel.
If you can meet truth with optimism, adapt with humility, be empathetic and genuine while maintaining an air of humble excellence, then you have the mindset of an effective leader.
An effective leader who people will love to follow.
And maybe even a leader as loved as good old Chesty Puller someday.