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Mindset of leadership

In economics, the Law Of Diminishing Returns states that the output of a workforce will decrease when a single factor of production is increased, with all other variables staying the same. If this was true during the Industrial Revolution, just think about the diminishing returns of today’s over-taxed employees. The Digital Revolution has completely rearranged every aspect of working life. Employees have seen an exponential rise in the demands on their time and an increase of duties, often for the same – or even less – pay than previous years. At the same time, workers are feeling less of a sense of loyalty to a single employer and are much more likely to bounce around positions. If you want to have (and keep) the best workforce around, you need good leadership. Eileen Chadnick is a leadership coach and perpetual champion for personal, professional and organizational success and wellbeing. She took a few minutes to share some thoughts on the “Mindset” of leadership.

Why is thinking of others so important for leaders?

The leader who fosters a “we” culture will be much more successful than one who focuses on “I” (or “me vs. them”). People bring the best of themselves to work when they feel appreciated, recognized and valued for their contribution. The leader is responsible for creating and enabling a culture that appreciates and invests in its people – no matter how small or large his/her team is. He/she must have and show an authentic appreciation for his/her team. It’s important to truly get what matters to them: what they do, how they contribute and what they need to bring the best to their work.

The leader is responsible for helping their people grow and learn, as well. Leaders who fall short in these areas and focus exclusively on outputs without due attention to their talent force will compromise the long-term success of the company. They will shortchange their team/organization potential in many areas including: employee engagement, retention, innovation, productivity and more.

How can leaders emphasize their positive thinking, to best motivate their team?

Increasingly, science underscores the importance of cultivating positive habits. Those who cultivate authentic positivity tend to reach for higher goals, achieve more, foster better relationships and experience greater well-being across a spectrum of emotional, physical and mental factors. This is about much more than positive outlooks or positive thinking, however. This calls for a far more authentic and pervasive commitment to values, behaviors, and practices that will cultivate positive experiences for oneself and for their people at the workplace. The leader needs to model and support practices such as:

  • Giving meaningful feedback
  • Acknowledging wins and good work
  • Seeing and communicating the big picture and staying aligned with a vision
  • Identifying possibilities even in the face of adversity
  • Fostering a culture of trust and creating safety in learning, stretching, asking…
  • Celebrating milestones
  • Fostering collegiality
  • Inviting people to feel part of the bigger purpose (of organization’s work and contribution to society)
  • Communicating regularly and honestly
  • And much more.

In short, the leader needs to develop a positivity habit and model good practices to create a positive, motivated and productive work environment. Similarly, how can a leader keep their outlook positive, even when things seem uncertain? What are the advantages of focusing on a positive outcome, rather than avoiding the negative? Optimism is an important factor in the spectrum of emotional intelligence. The leader who quickly flounders when the going gets tough will fail. A leader needs to develop a range of EQi (Emotional Quotient Inventory) skills including resilience, adaptability, grit, perspective and more.

Optimism is part of that mix. The leader needs to hold a vision (and a plan) to achieve the goal even when challenges emerge. That said, too much optimism can be detrimental and derail success if it over-rides reality and planning for obstacles. For instance, the leader who refuses to identify, plan for and address risks and potential challenges can put the company at risk (and their success as well). It’s important to balance optimism with reality – keeping an eye on the goal and vision while also being aware of potential risks and being prepared and nimble enough to address obstacles (foreseen or unforeseen).

How can a more introverted leader still exude a positive mindset to their employees?

Positivity and negativity are equal opportunity players and not exclusive to any one type of personality. An extrovert can experience and convey just as much negativity as any introvert. And vice versa – a quieter type might show great strength and positivity in their mindset, behaviors and habits. Positivity shows up in words, gestures and behaviors and even in one’s mental and emotional state. One does not need to be outgoing or exuberant to show authentic positivity. A smile, a warm word, a quiet acknowledgment – these can have powerful results.

One’s inner emotional state can have profound impact on others – even if one is quiet in nature. Human beings have powerful neural networks that can be picked up from others – even without a word said. If you are authentically positive, trust-worthy and trusting, your people will pick that up from you even if you of a more introverted nature. That said, it is still important for the quieter, more reserved leader to make sure they get out of their “cave” (office) and connect with their people. Be it one on one or in other ways, it is critical to be a connected leader, in touch with their people.

How do you address leadership mindset in your training programs?

Leadership mindset is a critical part of what I call “Leadership-ability”. One can not authentically show up as an authentic leader without a leadership mindset. In my coaching work, training programs and talks, I distinguish and integrate both the mindset and the skill set of the leader. I also draw extensively from fields such as emotional intelligence, neuroscience (as it relates to leadership, personal and professional efficacy and communications), as well as the science of positivity.

For example: Increasingly, leaders are asked to coach their people and build capacity. One cannot effectively coach without standing in a particular mindset. The leader needs to see and champion their talent’s potential and to help them grow and see their potential even at times when the individual may not, in the moment, see it themselves. Skills never travel alone! In nearly all facets of leadership (skills, presence, etc.), there is a mindset component. I encourage my clients (in coaching and training) to become reflective leaders. To learn to pause, reflect, challenge assumptions and invest more thinking effort so as to mitigate reactive responses that may not be as productive as a reflective response. The leader needs to be truly committed to being a great leader and not just “act” like one.

What are some ways to assess the mindset of leadership?

There are thousands of assessments on the market today. A great many are valuable but none should be used to label or “size up.” My coaching practice uses a range of assessments to augment the learning. I am certified in both the EQi assessment as well as VIA Strengths. An approach I find very helpful is the Discovery meeting. The client is asked to complete a discovery questionnaire that has reflection questions on a range of issues. This reveals a great deal about the client both to him/herself and to be as his/her collaborative thinking partner. As well, as a certified/trained/experienced coach and with decades of professional communications experience, I learn a tremendous amount just from conversations. I listen for the client’s beliefs in their statements – their values, awareness, preferences, character strengths – as well as potential blind spots, limiting beliefs and more.

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