Leadership mindset: The missing module
I believe you will not argue with me if I told you leadership is not a position but it’s a mindset.
Leadership is certainly not the position one holds. It’s a mindset.
There is a certain mindset that leads to effective leadership practice that must be embraced by all those who choose to lead.
Those who lead effectively whether they have positions of authority or not have a mindset that is different from their peers.
Effective leaders who have a strong leadership mindset assume a certain belief about who they are, and how they should act concerning those they work with and challenges they encounter on their professional journeys.
This is a mindset that catalyses the success of many professionals.
If you found a tree with beautiful fruits, there is no doubt that this is being nourished by the deep roots and rich soil (among other things).
You may not see through the soil, its nutrients and the roots of the tree but you know they are there.
In my fourth article on Mindset, I want to explore the mindset (roots) that leads to the beautiful traits, attributes, actions, and practices (fruits) that have come to be associated with effective leadership. Unfortunately, many leadership development programs are focused on how to bear fruits without any regard for the soil and the deep roots that produce beautiful fruits.
Benefits of having an effective leadership mindset:
It’s been recognised that mindset plays a critical role in the success of every professional.
The impact is even more pronounced when it comes to working in teams and social organisations.
An effective leadership mindset amplifies whatever leadership training leaders receive.
Without the right mindset, it is very difficult for any leader to be trained in the skills that are needed for leadership effectiveness.
The development of the leadership mindset must be a core component of any curriculum for developing leaders.
When a leader believes that the team members are just cogs in the machine and that how they feel does not matter because they are being paid a salary to do their jobs, no amount of leadership training can improve the effectiveness of this leader.
When the leader believes that his opinion is not open to question because he is the boss of the place, every hour invested in training is futile until there is a mindset shift.
A shift in mindset which recognises that team members’ opinion matter would definitely be beneficial.
Leadership practice is significantly different when leaders believe that team members have a say in the design of their work and the environment within which that work is carried.
Three core mindsets of a leader
We expect all professionals to demonstrate leadership whether they are in positions of authority or not.
There are leadership mindsets that support effective leadership practice in every organisation. I share 3 core mindsets that have made a difference in the lives of many professionals that I know.
Relationship (people) first, then the results
Professionals with a leadership mindset have a people-first attitude to work.
They inherently believe that without focusing on the people nothing gets done. It’s within their DNA.
It’s the true Ubuntu spirit that drives them to honour, respect, and care for those to their left and their right. And they do this with a genuine spirit and not to win favours from anyone.
They believe others’ existence makes their own existence meaningful. They make people around them feel seen and heard, and they provide them with opportunities to flourish.
This does not only generate extreme loyalty from those they work with but it also leads to extraordinary results as team members reciprocate with higher levels of engagement towards their assigned tasks.
They do not only work with the minds and hands of their team members they also tap into the hearts.
Above all, they are extremely focused on the professional growth of those they work with.
They tune in to their strengths and aspirations and demonstrate sufficient care in the working relationships they have with their team. And they are also focused on the results.
So they share resources, and opportunities, and support their teams to become better. They are never afraid that their team members will become better than them. They believe that they rise as professionals by lifting others.
Service, not to be served
Every leadership position at any level comes with a significant amount of leverage that can be used for personal gain. The mindset of effective leaders is that of service.
Serving their community is the passion of highly successful professionals with a leadership mindset. They have no sense of entitlement though they have positions of power and authority.
This idea powers their success because their service orientation beckons them to listen and adapt to the changing needs of their stakeholders.
They know very well that it’s not about them hence they welcome relevant stakeholder feedback. They are willing to drop what is not useful and doesn’t fully serve the interest of their stakeholders.
This mindset also fosters collaboration with other stakeholders which leads to significant influence in the leader’s sphere of operation.
Other leaders without this mindset tend to believe that doing this may lead to the leadership position losing its lustre and power. This is not an appropriate mindset.
Effective leaders continue to work hard to earn their seat each day while others view the position as their leadership manifesto. The mindset that, as leaders, they exist to serve the interest of the community leads them to serve with empathy and humility.
Taking responsibility, not picking roses
Professionals with a strong and effective leadership mindset accept responsibility for expected outcomes no matter their level in the organisation.
The fact that leadership is an act of service does not mean they can serve in any way they please or when they feel like it.
It’s a 24hr duty on the battlefront. They fully accept that the buck stops with them knowing that they cannot offer excuses and so they do whatever is necessary to solve the problems that arrive at their door.
This is the kind of responsibility Mandela was referring to when he said, “It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur.
You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.” Leaders with this mindset make the tough decisions, ask the hard questions, refrain from hiding in the face of the challenges, show up in front when there is danger, lead the troops into the battlefield, ensure that those under their charge are cared for and they are well prepared for the challenges ahead, never point fingers at others, they acknowledge how their actions or inactions might have contributed to the situation at hand. This is a tough weight to carry around.
Some will rather avoid leading completely because they cannot bear the weight.
Others love to smell the roses and avoid the responsibility but you cannot lead without a mindset that is focused on taking responsibility. Leadership is a mindset that enables professionals to shift from being victims to creating results.