Developing the mindset of a successful leader

There are three scenarios that all leaders face.  If you’re a leader – if you’re leading– you will have faced all three.  And if you haven’t yet, you will.

Scenario 1: “I’ve lost my direction. I’m off course and not heading where I intended.”

Scenario 2: “I know my priorities, but I don’t feel effective. I’m not getting the results I want.”

Scenario 3: “My work-life balance is out of sync. Sometimes the most important things get hijacked and I am like a hamster on a wheel.”

Sound familiar?  These are critical moments for the leader.  They play to the core of what it means to be successful.  The effectiveness of your enterprise is at risk.  You’re at risk of running aground.

How can you address these and avoid the ship wreck?

Successful leaders do three key things:

They map their environment and plot a course to their destination.  No one has made the journey that each leader is embarking on, so no two courses will look the same. Then they navigate the volatile, uncertain, chaotic and ambiguous waters of life, constantly recalibrating their route as external forces seek to blow them off course.  And they grow themselves and their teams to constantly increase their and others’ capacity and confidence, to sail more strongly against the winds to their chosen destination.

So what is going wrong in scenario 1?  You feel directionless, becalmed.  You don’t feel like you’re getting anywhere.  

Perhaps all that is needed is a new perspective.  Life is not a straight line, so fixed plans don’t work.  If you feel like you’re off course focus again on your vision, your destination.  Look again at your values. Then adapt your plans.  Constantly.  Roadmaps don’t work for leaders. You need to develop a dynamic map and journey plan.  Successful leaders fix their eyes on their destination, and adjust their plans constantly. Unsuccessful leaders fix their eyes on their plans, and lose sight of the destination.  Where are you going?

So how do you address scenario 2?  You’re busy beyond belief but don’t seem to be achieving anything.  

It’s tempting to make another priority list.  These help us do the right things, but not necessarily in the right way.  To do that, you need the right mindset.

Faced with a whirlwind of demands, we can get lost in the morass of emails, deadlines, meetings and targets.  We get sucked into reactive mode.  Just respond to the next demand, the next email, the next meeting.

Successful leaders choose the right mindset.  You can – you have to – work in reactive mode for some of the time.  Life, after all, is unpredictable, and sudden squalls arise unexpectedly.  But get stuck in a reactive mindset and you will lose all sense of purpose and progress.  

“But I have to do these things” you complain.  You do. But you don’t need to approach them reactively.  Choose another mindset.

Take your current to do list.  Let’s assume it all needs to be done (an unsafe assumption, but let’s stay with this for a while).  What would it look like if you approached the task with a transformative mindset? Or a creative mindset?  Look at your diary for the last week, at all your meetings and activities.  What would you say your dominant mindset was over that period?  What do you want it to be?

Then what about scenario 3?  How do you manage work/life balance?

Successful leaders see things differently.  Work and life aren’t in competition.  Work is part of life!  You need life balance.

Think about your life – private, professional and public. 

What is your vision? What are your goals?  What defines who you are, your values?

Spend some time reflecting on these key questions: what is your vision for your life?  What are your goals?  What behaviours define who you are, like ‘Blackpool through a stick of rock’?

You can achieve your work – and life – goals.  Adopt the mindsets of successful leaders.

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