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7 tips for developing a leadership mindset

3 min read


Feeling like everyone but you is being promoted? Wondering why your team has lost its spark? Questioning how few people at work are interested in your ideas and opinions?

Perhaps it’s time for a leadership practice checkup.

Professor and author Michael D. Watkins offers seven topics for leaders to take into account as they assess their leadership practices. These methods require maintaining an equilibrium between analytical thinking and conceptual mindsets—a fundamental necessity for leading as well as managing effectively. If your career growth and influence are stalled out, reflect on your answers to these seven questions.

1. Are you working as a specialist or a generalist?

Vikram Mansharamani notes that “the future may belong to the generalist.” A fast-moving, quickly changing business environment requires the ability to deal with a broad range of uncertainty. “Ideological reliance on a single perspective appears detrimental to one’s ability to successfully navigate vague or poorly-defined situations (which are more prevalent today than ever before).”

2. Are you thinking like an analyst or an integrator?

Successful leaders see a wide range of possibility. Strategy advisers Michael Sales and Anika Savage say that these individuals know “how to honor and weave together the thoughts and feelings of others with their own into a line of principled action.”

3. Are you functioning as a tactician or as a strategist?

Big picture leaders get out of the day-to-day weeds so they can follow Peter Drucker’s advice for strategic planning: formulate the strategy, implement it, monitor results, and make adjustments.

4. Are you engaged as a bricklayer or as an architect?

Leaders assure that “strategy, structure, operating models, and skill bases fit together effectively and efficiently, and harness this understanding to make needed organizational changes,” notes Watkins.

5. Are you focused on being a problem-solver or an agenda setter?

Effective leaders know when to step back from being hands-on, aiming instead for shaping the long-term vision. Research from James M. Kouzes and Barry Posner reveals “being for forward-thinking — envisioning exciting possibilities and enlisting others in a shared view of the future — is the attribute that most distinguishes leaders from nonleaders.”

6. Do you see yourself as a warrior or a diplomat?

Responding with tact and grace is the hallmark of a humble, win-win oriented leader who has learned to transcend ego. Individuals who have mastered the art and science of functioning this way are author Jim Collins describes as Level 5 leaders: “a study in duality: modest and willful, shy and fearless.”

7. Do you position yourself in a cast member or leading role?

Everyone can be a leader even if they aren’t the in-charge leader. All it takes is some daring, compassion, accountability, and a dollop of guts. Being overly meek and blending into the background doesn’t drive results or build engagement.

Savvy leaders recognize that all the combinations Watkins lists may be applicable in any given set of circumstances, ignoring the “or” and correctly applying what Collins calls the “power of the AND.” These smart leaders embrace possibility with openness, practice inclusion without judgment, turn dreams into reality and inspire others to do the same.

Jane Perdue, a leadership futurist with Braithwaite Innovation Group, speaks, writes, and consults about disrupting stereotypes, the leadership status quo, and how we think about power. Perdue is @thehrgoddess on Twitter and blogs at LeadBIG.

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