The Mind of a Leader

Recently, I was asked to speak before a group of federal agency professionals to give them my thoughts on leadership. This gave me the opportunity to consider leadership and all it entails. I realized leadership was too big of a topic to discuss in an hour-long speech, so I decided to narrow my focus and discuss where leadership begins. I then asked myself the question, “Where do leaders come from?”

We’ve heard it said many times before that someone is a born leader. I decided to examine this thought a little more closely. Is there such a thing as a born leader? As I considered this, I realized there really are some people who are more naturally able to lead than others. These “born leaders” have innate qualities allowing them to effectively lead others. These leaders are able to unite, motivate, encourage, and lead others to achieve specific goals with little effort. The people they lead have a certain respect for these born leaders because of the qualities they were born with.

So, does this mean if you are not born a leader, you have no chance of becoming an effective leader in the future? I already knew the answer to this question before the thought was completed in my mind. “No.” There certainly is a way to become a leader when you aren’t born with the “leader gene” like many other successful leaders. There is a method to learn to become a leader.

There is a wonderfully insightful book I read titled: Mindset, The New Psychology of Success by Dr. Carol Dweck. This book discusses the ability to become successful through your mindset. This means the way you think can determine your success. Dr. Dweck’s research led her to two types of mindsets: fixed and growth.

A fixed mindset is one that is static and keeps you from growing and evolving. A person with a fixed mindset doesn’t accept a challenge. They believe anything you have to work hard at isn’t meant to be and causes them to give up. A person with a fixed mindset is unable to accept criticism and therefore cannot see things from another perspective. A person with a fixed mindset has a closed mind to new ideas or opportunities which limits their initiative. Each of these qualities keeps a person from maturing and evolving into a more successful person.

This leads us to the person who has a growth mindset. This person looks at challenges as an opportunity to overcome a new obstacle. A growth-minded person looks at criticism as a way to grow, learn, and become better. They are open-minded to new ideas and opportunities and look forward to seeing what new possibilities may come. These qualities allow the growth-minded person to continue to grow into a successful person.

If you realize you fall into the fixed minded category, you may be wondering how you can move to the growth-minded category. The answer to this question is the same as learning to become a leader. To move from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset, you must only change the way you think. You can actually choose your thoughts which leads to your mindset, and level of success.

Choosing your thoughts may sound a bit ludicrous but it can be done. You must pay attention to the thoughts that creep into your mind. When something negative pops in, you have to decide to change your thoughts. Thinking positive and having a “glass half full” mentality will lead you to begin to move to the growth mindset. Believing the best in situations will give you a different perspective of your situations and allow you to learn something from each encounter.

Confidence is another necessary quality to have when moving from a fixed to a growth mindset. Please understand, confidence doesn’t mean cocky. Confidence is knowing what you’re good at, and the value you add to any given thing. If you are nervous and lack confidence in yourself, no one else will have confidence in you either. To develop your confidence, you should start slow. You must learn to believe in yourself and ask for the things you want. Eventually, you will see a change in yourself that will also be noticed by others.

One more sure-fire way to move from a fixed to a growth mindset is to simply never give up. Setting goals for yourself will help keep you on the path to success. There are times when you may feel as if you are tired and worn out and your goal is too far away. You may have encountered adversities or roadblocks that may have held you back from reaching that goal. When these problems occur, I’d like to refer you back to choosing your thoughts and believing the best to keep you forging ahead.

The mindset you have will determine your level of success in life and your ability to lead or be led. Choosing to be positive in the face of adversity while knowing that adversity will make you stronger and better is essential to your success. Being confident in yourself will allow others to maintain that level of confidence in you as well. Through it all, never give up on yourself or your goals. Your determination to see your goals to fruition, regardless of roadblocks, is what will set you apart from others.

I initially began this article by asking the question, “Where do leaders come from?” While in the beginning, the answer eluded me, the answer is now quite simple. Leaders are inside every one of us. Leadership is not determined by our genes or our level of intelligence. Any one of us can choose to be a leader. We only have to choose the right mindset to do so.