Look around at the challenges facing society today: a global pandemic, economic challenges, societal unrest, and more. So-called black swan events that just a year or two ago were seemingly unthinkable, are now happening like they were “yesterday’s news.” To rise to the challenges and meet the moment, companies are accelerating digital transformation, re-thinking the way knowledge workers interact, and shredding and re-writing strategic plans.
While there are clearly some leaders who are rising to the challenge, there is an urgent need for more (and more effective) leadership. To meet this need, there’s an incredible amount of energy and effort being applied on the part of businesses, and by knowledge workers directly, to improve work performance, to increase leadership capacity, and to position themselves for gaining vital skills. The learning, development, and coaching fields have grown dramatically, as of late, to serve this growing and crucial need. In part, meeting this call was what inspired me to leave my career as a leader in a high-tech industry and become an Executive Coach.
For any leader or aspiring leader, the question to be asking right now should be: what creates a significant and lasting transformation in leadership? In this article and the on-demand webinar I hosted, I explore this exact question.
Improve your Leadership the Simple Way
As a result of a recent search on Amazon, I found over 60,000 books on the topic of leadership. Each seems to contain a framework or process to support leadership growth and development. Having explored many of these books and frameworks myself, I can say that many hold benefits for the sincere learner. However, how can they all be correct? Whenever you encounter multiple frameworks, all claiming to have THE answer, it does raise such a question, can all these methods work equally well?
Most people believe that effective leadership is the result of an individual who has a variety of skills and techniques. Productivity, the capacity to set a vision, the skill of building a cohesive team, confidence, communication, and creativity are just a few of the skills that tend to be related to defining a good leader. With a focus on these skills, it’s logical to think that the way to become a better leader is to improve all of these leadership skills directly. This makes complete sense; however, can result in any aspiring leader going down a variety of rabbit holes to improve specific skills.
For those of us who enjoy learning, this can be an exhilarating journey. However, with busier work demands, it becomes harder to improve all the various skill development areas required to raise your leadership game. You can spend a lifetime honing your communication skills alone, and have dozens of other competencies left to work on! It is, therefore, important that we hone in on the most essential areas of leadership development. Is there a way in which any human being, regardless of status and experience, can elevate their leadership skill without spending every hour of their free time reading books and perfecting skills? It turns out that there is.
Find your Inner Leverage Point
Archimedes famously said, “give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.” Being effective in leadership development means identifying the fulcrum and lever, and focusing on it. When it comes to elevating your leadership, you can bypass a number of enticing and complex skill development areas by focusing, instead, on the areas where real leverage can be found. That place of leverage is inside of yourself. It turns out, that your relationship with your own mind is the single most crucial point of leverage for self-development and leadership transformation.
Specifically, by better understanding your “state of mind” and its impact on how you behave, create, relate to others, and ultimately lead, you can work better within yourself, and, therefore, massively improve your leadership capacity without wasting energy and time. It starts with understanding what “state of mind” even means. Let me explain. I’d like to invite you to take a few moments right now to check in with yourself. What is the state of your mind right now? Are you feeling settled, calm, and relaxed? Are you feeling anxious? Are you feeling confident, confused, or something altogether different than that?
What I mean by “state of mind,” is the feeling in which you are operating. The better awareness you have over your mental and feeling states, and what creates them, the more effective you will be. Let me explain further by way of an analogy. Let’s go to the movies…
Realize the Movie Theater of your Mind
The human mind is an experience generating factory, continuously generating your experience from the inside (your mind) to the outside (bringing to life what you experience in the world). While it appears that your circumstances define how you feel and think, it turns out that the mind works in the opposite manner. Similar to a movie projector that paints a picture based on the unique data contained in the film running through it (or the data accessed from a hard drive!), human beings experience a reality (complete with a full sensory experience and feelings), based on the quality of the thinking running through their minds at any given point in time. Understanding how this mental mechanism works, even at a surface level, radically changes one’s relationship to work, life, and leadership!
If you’re finding it hard to follow what I’m saying, just imagine a scenario that you relate to with a sense of calm or even fondness. Perhaps it’s a work project that is especially fulfilling for you. Now ask yourself how are other people relating to the same project? You can probably think of someone who, like you, relates to this project with a sense of optimism and quiet resolve even when it becomes challenging, while others seem to relate to it with a sense of dread and despair. Conversely, you can probably think of people who relate to projects that you might find stressful, with a sense of enrichment or security.
How is it that the same people can show up so differently to the same project or circumstances? The answer lies in the fact that human beings are experiencing the world, and their work, not as it is, but as they are.
Implications for your Career
The implication of what I’m sharing is this: if you want to improve your performance and leadership at work, it helps to start with a better understanding of how your mind works. Instead of learning a new technique to write a better vision document or run a better team meeting, or implementing a conversational hack to get stakeholders a line, it is worthwhile to first take a moment to explore your inner world.
During my on-demand webinar, Transformative Leadership: How to elevate your impact with less effort and none of the stress, I break down a few core principles that govern how the human state of mind works. I also share practical tips on how to work better with yourself and others, so that regardless of the challenges you face, you can show up with more of your human potential to lead.