In uncertain and challenging situations, change often disrupts expectations of the future and our sense of control. Keeping yourself or your team motivated seems a constant challenge especially in challenging working conditions. Stressful situations make it difficult for you to prepare and direct yourself and others to perform to full potential both individually and collectively as a team in pursuit of your goals. As the work places are changing all over the world because of the new normal, as individuals and as leaders, one must demonstrate a spirit of purpose and optimism. This is where mindset plays an important role in how one approaches to influence and lead people through crisis situations. When it comes to demonstrating leadership at personal or professional level, more than our skills and talents, it is our mindset that guides us.
Leading is all about managing your mindset.
Mindset is the mental attitude or inclination and determines our behaviour, decisions and actions which produce specific results. The mindset you embrace determines how you lead, the ways in which you interpret behaviours, deal with expectations and how you communicate with others in personal or professional situations. It also determines the way we help people in how they navigate through problems or failures. By adapting a leadership mindset, you can ensure that to the best of your ability and intention, you can impact others in a positive way when they face problems, failure or challenges.
Developing a leadership mindset is crucial as it not only influences how you think and interpret situations but also your emotional reactions, decisions and actions. It sets you up to be empathetic and compassionate during adversity and deal with the challenging situations with transparency and decisiveness. It helps you to hold space for yourself and your team to lead and grow despite uncertainty and uncomfortableness. To achieve balance between being supportive and encouraging others amid crisis requires leadership mindset to create sustainable behavioural change to move forward.
What is leadership mindset?
Leadership mindset is not born out of behaviours you engage in but it is mostly about how you see and interpret the situations you find yourself in. For instance, How do you deal with disagreements with colleagues when you have to make decision that involves risk -something to avoid or necessary to communicate ? How do you see challenges and failures- as a threat or to learn and grow?Mindset we adopt to acts as the filter and what gets through is what ends up guiding our thinking, learning and perspectives. For instance, two different people might encounter the same situation and process or respond to it differently.
There are different mindsets from which we all tend to operate out of and the mindset we choose, feed and nurture is the one that directs the way we lead, think, learn and act. More positive the mindset, more effective is the way, you can deal with challenging or stressful situations you encounter on a daily basis. It is important to identify what productive mindsets can result in effective solutions and outcomes. There are four different sets of mindset that have been identified to affect leaders in their ability to engage with others, navigate through adversity and perform in their ways to lead more effectively.
Growth mindset Vs Fixed mindset
Certain leaders have mindset to achieve growth and self-development. People with growth mindset believe they can always learn and grow. And with hard work, they can achieve almost anything they set their mind to. The opposite is true for people with fixed mindset. They believe their abilities, talents and intelligence are fixed and cannot be improved or changed by them or others. Such people’s thinking mostly is black and white or right or wrong. A person with growth mindset does not shy away from problems but is instead excited to solve them and embrace challenges and see failure as an opportunity to learn and grow rather than denying and ignoring them. They are receptive to feedback from others and identify the gaps to improve or correct themselves. Whereas those with fixed mindset do not admit and correct their deficiencies as they have difficulty when their image is threatened. Fixed mindset makes a flaw intolerable and seek to avoid failure. So, if something does not come easily, they have a tendency to give up.
Prevention Vs Promotion mindset
Leaders with promotion mindset focus on winning and gains as opposed to those of prevention mindset whose focus is only on not losing. With promotion mindset, their primary objective becomes to get to specific destination where they identify a specific purpose or goal and prioritise it and make an effort to progress towards it. They anticipate problems and are of the view that risks are necessary in order to reach their desired destination. They are more open to change, more likely to achieve their goals despite challenges and setbacks and demonstrate higher productivity and creativity as compared to leaders with a prevention mindset. Leaders with a prevention mindset are more focused on avoiding losses and preventing problems or risks at all costs. They are not effective problem-solvers or not open to feedback and see it as a threat that hinders their authority and thus end up in destinations that are not of their choosing.
Learning and performance mindset
Leaders who possess learning mindset are motivated towards increasing their competence and are focused on learning something new. Performance mindset involves being focused more towards gaining favourable judgements or avoiding negative judgments about one’s competence and this their decisions mostly will be outcome biased. Leaders who are more inclined towards learning mindset are mentally effective in learning new innovative ways, problem-solving skills seek out feedback and exert more effort in overcoming obstacles. Those are of performance mindset are not adaptable to new perspectives or changes and thus cannot perform at a higher level.
Closed or open mindset
Leaders with open mindset are more receptive to ideas and suggestions of others. Being closed to new perspectives, ideas or feedback makes leaders limited in their thinking and cannot make effective decisions instead they are more focused on implementing their decisions or ideas and their primary concern becomes being viewed as being right. Whereas open mindset leaders make optimal decisions as they tend to be impartial, more accurate and less biased in their decision-making. They seek new perspectives and feedback. Being open to new information makes them think optimally.
Understanding different mindset can make you aware of what qualities you can unlock as part of your leadership mindset and prioritise them – i.e., growth, promotion, open and learning mindsets.
How to develop your leadership mindset?
The radical change of these times demands that one develops leadership mindset to demonstrate a spirit of purpose and optimism to make your teams more productive in times of high stress and changing priorities amidst new normal. Developing leadership mindset begins at the individual level by leading yourself first. Here are some ways to upgrade to leadership mindset .
Have a rational perception of situation
Develop a rational approach towards the situation and how you perceive others to get in touch with their true potential as to set them up for growth and success. At the same time, understand the perceptions of people you lead to engage with compassion during adversity, and meet the moment with enthusiasm, transparency, and decisiveness. Rational perception of a situation puts you into proper perspective of focusing on facts rather than focusing on negative emotions. Hold space for yourself and your team to lead and grow despite the level of uncertainty or risks uncomfortableness. Being supportive encourages them to step up to achieve their objectives.
Ask yourself, What are the perceptions of the people I lead? Would my perceptions give them reason to be optimistic? What changes do I need to make in my perceptions that would make me more empathetic and compassionate? What should I need to start, stop or continue doing to help others to achieve goals?
Challenge your existing mindset
Your present mindset reflects the beliefs you hold right now about yourself and others. Being aware of your thinking, intentions and actions can tell you a lot about your existing mindset. Have an up-to-date view of your current situation and developing scenarios to explore possibilities. Check your assumptions and biases to help yourself and others to learn and adapt to new challenges and outcomes. Avoid seeing things entirely as black and white or right or wrong. Be open to other’s perspectives and focus on facts to get the accurate measure of the problem you or your team is facing. Accept if your thinking needs to adapt to evolving situations and people’s needs by reviewing your expectations, standards or strengths.
Ask yourself, Are my existing mindsets helping me and others?Do I get defensive when someone contradicts or gives me a negative feedback? Do I admit when I don’t know something? Are my beliefs supportive of evolving people’s needs? What’s holding me back in developing a growth mindset? What fixed beliefs do I have about myself? What changes do I need to make to develop leadership mindset?
Adopt a resilient mindset through commitment
When you are stressed, you might develop pessimism bias where we overestimate the likelihood of negative things and underestimate positive thoughts especially in the middle of challenging scenarios or crisis. Adopt to a more resilient self by slowing down your reasoning process, reviewing your past successes and channelling your pessimism as motivation. The amount of unwavering commitment you bring to lead, perform and succeed sends positive message to those with whom you work. To develop leadership mindset is to constantly look to learn, grow and be open to new perspectives in evolving challenging situations.
Ask yourself, How does my attitude encourage and motivate my team or coworkers? Is my attitude worthy of emulating? Is my communication clear and concise? Am I only focusing on negatives? What am I doing on a daily basis that contributes to a resilient mindset? Which mindset helps my inner leader develop?
Be flexible in your mindset
Being attached to your ideas or strategies will only make you resort to blame or excuses in times of challenges or crisis. Instead, when we practice flexibility of mind as part of leadership mindset it becomes easy to make changes at personal level to overcome challenges. When your cherished idea or a project isn’t working, holding on to it only leads to unnecessary changes that make you go off the track. Being flexible with your own ideas you can adjust your attitude towards change and the capability to improve. To make the situation manageable, break the crisis down into workable chunks to find the effective solutions and to solve simpler things one at a time. A day-by-day approach will keep your emotions in check where you can see the situation as opportunity to learn, correct and get better.
Ask yourself, Am I being flexible in my approach towards my goals? Am I setting the realistic expectations amid crisis? Do I see failure as a means of end of as an inevitable part of growing? Am I encouraging growth and seeking the best interest of others? Am I giving and receiving timely feedback?
Prioritise people over self
People with fixed mindset are typically concerned with their reputation for personal greatness and are quick to deliver blame and excuses in times of crisis or change. Fixed mindset often leads to groupthink where leaders are seen as who never err. Thinking that you do not need great teams and not communicating with them sets you up for failure. Treating your team or workers as little helpers to carry out your big ideas can leave them discouraged and disengaged. Instead communicate to foster their development, growth and productivity.
Enable your teams to succeed by embracing trust.When you prioritise people ahead of yourself , they elevate others and foster team well-being. The decisions you make and how you communicate reflects who they are and who they aspire to be. Encourage people to discuss their choices and the feedback they get and work together to improve their decisions to rise up to the challenges. Stating their honest opinions and openly expressing disagreements can make your decision-making a learning process for everyone.
Ask yourself , How is my understanding of those whom I work with? What new resources can be deployed to motivate so that their productivity kept pace?Do I use feedback to alter my strategies m? How do I deal with disagreements? How flexible am I to people’s evolving needs?
Space for self-reflection
Do you maintain a leadership mindset when faced with adversity? Which mindsets aren’t helping you through difficult situations ?
What is your dominant mindset -is it fixed or growth?
How flexible are you in adjusting to people’s needs or expectations in times of crisis?
Do you undermine or appreciate other’s achievements?
Are you willing to take risks or do you hesitate and avoid taking risks because you may fail? How confident are you of your own inner resourcefulness?
Are you open to feedback ? Do you prioritise your team or people you work with and their individual needs?
It is not such a great challenge to lead in normal situations. It is when you are facing uncertainty and unknown that it becomes more important to focus on the way you lead, think and influence those around you. Cultivating a leadership mindset always begins at personal level. It takes effort and practice over time for the leadership mindset to take hold. When it does, it becomes a way of thinking. But to get to this point it takes commitment and willingness to put into practice the above mindsets and behaviours in your everyday life to make productivity sustainable. Cultivate a leadership mindset that encourages reflection, forward-thinking and decisions to build resilience in yourself and in people you lead to overcome obstacles or challenges.