Your mindset affects your behaviour!
Leadership is not just about skills, it’s also about your mindset.
I learned about leadership, at least initially, mostly by observing leaders in real life and, sometimes, from novels, movies, or television shows. The qualities I observed resonated with me, and I told myself that I’d like to be an effective leader like those I have observed.
The problem, though, was that most of those leaders I sought to imitate often seemed perfect. Perhaps they were not actually perfect, but they do seem that way.
When I started leading teams, I began to realise that the leader I aspired to be is likely not attainable. Trying to live up to my image of leadership resulted in me feeling stressed out.
As I tried to lead and as I learned more about leadership, I realized that some of my mindsets and expectations were putting unnecessary pressure upon myself. Instead of helping me be a better leader, they actually prevented me from being effective; worse, they have a negative impact on my team!
During my training workshops, I often have participants telling me that, “I used to think I needed to [ do something, think a certain way, or have a certain expectation ], but now I realised that I don’t have to be like that anymore, and I feel liberated!”
Like these workshop participants, we think that an effective leader has to think a certain way or behave a certain way.
Some of those mindsets or expectations might be true, but many are actually unhealthy. In fact, having certain mindsets or expectations can prevent us from leading effectively.
Three mindsets that prevent you from leading effectively
Having the right mindsets help us lead effectively. Having the wrong mindsets not only prevent us from leading effectively but also prevent our team from becoming a high-impact and high-performance team.
The following are three commonly held mindsets of ineffective leaders.
1. I need to have all the answers!
I am not sure where this misconception came from. Perhaps it was because the good leaders we observed all seemed to have the right answers all the time.
One of my clients struggled with this mindset. He felt that not having all the answers make him appear incompetent in the eyes of his team members. He was constantly pushing himself to get ahead of everything, to find out about everything, and to anticipate every question or problem so that he could have the answer to them.
He was constantly in a state of high stress, worked harder and longer hours than everyone else on the team. He was also always in a state of fear: afraid that he might be caught not knowing the answer!
As a smart and capable person, he actually had many (if not all) of the answers. However, this caused his team to depend on him and are less motivated to figure out solutions to their own problems. After all, since the leader knows the answer, why bother to work it out on their own? The more his team approached him for answers, the more he felt obligated to provide them with answers; and the more stressed he became.
Eventually, he was spending more time on solving problems and finding answers than actually leading the team. That was when he realised that he wasn’t an effective leader.
When we feel the need to have all the answers, we create a dependency between our team and ourselves. We disempower our team from solving problems on their own, figuring things out, and learning from the experience. Ultimately, we are not building up our team and helping them grow.
After attending my Coaching Workshop, this client said, “Now I realised that I don’t need to have all the answers. I just need to empower my team to find their own answers!”
Of course, it helped that he had just learned the skills to empower his people!
“I don’t need to have all the answers. I just need to empower my team to find their own answers!”
2. I need to be in control!
I worked with a business owner recently and the experience frustrated me.
He wanted everything to be done his way and would reprimand his staff for doing things differently. No doubt, it was his business and his prerogative. But his staff felt like they were just tools to be used, with no value other than to just obeying his command; like robots.
This mindset actually goes beyond just wanting to be in control of how things get done.
A leader who wants to be in control could also want to be informed of every detail and everything that’s happening; wanting to know it all! He might also want his team to seek his approval for everything that they have to do, and he wants to personally make every decision.
A leader who wants to have control of everything ends up disempowering his team. He discourages them from finding a better way to do things, from innovating. He communicates to his team that they are mere tools for accomplishing his goals, that their talents and uniqueness are irrelevant. Worse, he is communicating his lack of trust towards his team.
I have worked under a high-control leader before, and it was stressful for the team. Our work progress was slow because we had to wait for the leader to make every decision; no progress could be made if the leader was away. We felt that we had no freedom to get things done in an effective and efficient way, and the team’s morale was low.
As soon as I had an opportunity, I left the team.
3. I need to be directive!
This is a prevalent leadership model in many cultures, where leaders tell or direct, and are expected to do so.
No doubt, we need to tell or direct when appropriate; for example, during an emergency, when the timing is critical, or when our staff is inexperienced and needs help. The problem arises when we feel the need to be directive all the time!
A leader who is directive all the time adds unnecessary stress on himself: he needs to know everything and every detail all the time. He also prevents his team from exercising their creativity. In the long run, he ends up being personally responsible for everything and finds himself overwhelmed.
By being directive all the time, a leader does not develop his staff to be future leaders; he cultivates followers instead!
Getting out of the three mindsets
The first and third mindsets are actually quite common among those who came to my training.
What I realised, though, is that they knew those mindsets are not healthy, but they didn’t know how to do the opposite! For some of them, those were the leadership model they were exposed to, and they struggled to behave differently.
The good news is that change is not difficult!
We can learn the skills and techniques that allow us to direct less and, instead, draw out the potential of our team members so that we don’t need to have all the answers.
Integrating coaching skills into our leadership role is one effective way to help us lead more effectively. By being more coach-like, we empower our team to be the best they can be, and in the process, we also build ownership and motivates them.
What about you?
Which of these mindsets is preventing you from leading effectively?
What other mindsets can you think of that might hinder a leader’s effectiveness?
Would you like to learn the skills that allow you to empower your team more effectively? Would you want leaders in your organisation to learn how to do so? Contact me and let’s talk!