Photo by jean wimmerlin on Unsplash.
Here’s how to develop a leadership mentality.
Do you find yourself complaining at work? Are you annoyed about all those stupid little things that make your job a nightmare? Do you complain about those in charge who should be doing better, should be taking the lead and … well you get the idea.
Do you complain and criticize, or do you step up? Stepping up and taking initiative to fix the problems will not only fix those things you complain about, but will also strengthen you and put you on a path to success.
Become a leader and become better than the problems. By being a leader you rise above and start to take the power you need to be better than now.
The Leadership Attitude is not so Easy
Well that’s what Dr. Covey tells me. I’m still in the process of trying it out. And I have to say it’s not an easy road. It’s not easy giving up the ease of passing responsibility, or joy of sharing the collegial experience of ‘bitching and moaning’. And harder still, is confronting entrenched structural problems of work; trying to be positive about finding an innovative solution in a work place that is neither flexible or innovative.
It’s not easy, but it is the road to empowerment.
You can keep taking the easy path – the path that leads to long term complaining, criticism, apathy, maybe even stressful drinking; pretty much the path of quit or give in and just play along for the pay check. Or you can decide that you are going to be a leader – you know what is best and you are going to show the whole organization how things can be better. In this way, you are going to be the leader, leading by small actions and bringing about the change you want to see.
It’s not easy, but this road leads to empowering yourself by taking initiative.
Stop Complaining – A Leadership Mentality finds solutions
So this is the lessons I’ve been taught, not just from Stephen Covey but by all the positive preachers I’ve been listening to. They all say, stop complaining and take the power back, choose the life you want to live and become the change you want to see. Well stuff like that.
And I do agree. Complaining was getting me nowhere. It does feel good at times, but it doesn’t offer any solutions, and by constantly focusing on the bad things you start to feel down. By focusing on what’s wrong in a negative way, you also give up your agency to do anything about it. That leads to dis-empowerment and apathy and simply giving up.
So I decided I had more power than that. I chose to begin to take more initiative and by doing so seek to rise above the problems, to accentuate the positive and to become a more proactive, capable and positive person.
I started by focusing on work – teaching.
I started this new academic year with the mantra, ‘I don’t care for problems I look for solutions’. I said, ‘I’m done complaining, the problems are the job I’ve been hired to solve’. And I decided to be positive and to take all those students I have on the best journey I can, by not complaining, and by doing whatever I can to overcome all those things I used to complain about.
Early results of the leadership mentality
So far, it’s been 5 weeks. I started out on fire, full of positive energy and ready to change everything. And it was great, I went on training and got all inspired about the new courses I would teach. Previously I was complaining I didn’t get the exact classes I wanted, and that I got the lower ability kids and that I had extra work to prepare, and so on. But I stopped all that and I told myself, ‘it’s your job to do the best for the kids you have. Get excited about what you can do. And enjoy learning the new course, worse case scenario, it will look good on the resume’. This attitude gave me so much more energy to go at the job and to get excited.
Removing Old Complaints
Then we had professional development at school. We had a whole day on using new technology in the classroom. In the past, this was my stock standard fodder for complaining. ‘When do we have time to learn all this?’, ‘The kids are addicted to technology’, ‘it’s all a big distraction’, ‘it works until it breaks down and we’re stuffed’ … and so on.
But this time I told myself that technology is the future, the kids love it and it’s a great new specialized skill to have. So I dived into menti.com, edpuzzle, Onenote, shared documents, kahoots and online gamed lessons. And it was a mountain of extra work, but now I feel like I’m a step above. I’m no longer scared of the technology, I’m the one using it everyday. And you know what, the kids do love it, and it does improve the options I have available to make classes better and more fun.
But the best thing was when the rest of the department started to see me as a leader. I was charging into this stuff and doing new exciting things, and I was able to show them a few things. I had gone from one of the pack to a sort of leader in that one area.
That initial great feeling then opened me up to another opportunity.
Next, the schools in this area decided to run a full day professional development event where teachers effectively teach the other teachers about topics. Previously, I would have been the first to say ‘no thanks, I’m not up for that’ and furthermore, ‘I can’t believe they make us go to these stupid events, we have marking and planning and so on…’
But this time I thought about what I might like to do.
I realized I complain about all the things we don’t teach. I complain that the kids are not being properly prepared for the future. So I looked into the big topics in education today. And soft skills teaching and the 4C’s approach came up. And I wanted to know more. So instead of complaining and bitching about PD day, I put my name down. And all those around me were surprised. Then a few more considered getting involved. And there was possibility and excitement instead of the usual flat, ‘can’t believe we have to go to this thing’.
The leadership mentality lead me to see things that were once unbelievable challenges as possibles. It has lead me to see all those pathetic little complaints as, well pathetic. And now I feel stronger and more empowered.
But don’t get me wrong – it’s not easy.
It does mean responsibility, it means extra work and it means stepping above the crowd. And it also means recognizing the leadership of others and how unfair it is to criticize them, when actually being a leader is not always as easy as it looks.
So what does it take to develop the Leadership Mentality?
Taking initiative requires initiative, vision, discipline, passion and conscience.
Initiative is the Habit of a Leader
Work is a choice. If you choose to take the job, then you can’t complain – you need to take on the responsibility. I know for many of us do take the responsibility, but then we complain and criticize. We fail to see that those problems are the very thing that we have been hired to fix.
So we can keep the job, and moan and complain, or we can decide that it is our responsibility – if there’s something wrong then we should work to make it better. This means taking initiative.
Covey indicated 7 levels of initiative:
The 7 levels of initiative as briefly as possible:
- wait to be told,
- ask what to do,
- make a recommendation,
- “I intend to”, or plan the solutions you will implement,
- do it and report immediately,
- do it and report periodically,
- do it.
So, very basically, the ladder goes from no responsibility and no power or ownership, through the various levels of partial involvement, all the way to the top, where you own the solution and you make it happen.
Now I may not even be half way up the ladder, but there is a lot of value even in taking the first few steps. Going from not caring and just doing ‘my job’, to caring and taking responsibility for ‘my job’ is a huge step up. That, sadly, feels like where I am. But again it’s a big step for me, and I’m gradually working my way up the ladder.
However, the problem, I fear, is most of us are working down at wait to be told or ask. We have no power. We don’t seek any power and we have no authority to pave the way forward. This requires little to no initiative, and there is little to no risk. But it is also a powerless position, where we just follow instructions. We give up ultimate responsibility and then we complain.
As we move up the tree of initiative we start to take on more power and we take on all responsibility. This is not always easy, though I’m starting to see that it is possible.
Dr. Stephen Covey:
“When you wisely use initiative through all 7 Levels of Initiative, you’ll find that your Circle of Influence will get larger and larger until it encompasses your entire job. Interestingly, and this almost always happens, as your Circle of Influence enlarges, so too does your Circle of Concern.” (Covey 143)
And as our circles start to grow, we get more influence, we get greater access to opportunities, we become more valuable, and we start have the power to shape organizations to the way we wish they were. Well at least in theory – I know others have done it, let’s see if I can get there.
[For more valuable lessons from Dr Stephen Covey, check out my article, Follow your Passion and Find Your Voice.]
So how do we get more power and become a leader?
Leadership Mentality through Vision
The first step on the road to developing the leadership mentality is vision. You need to be operating from a vision of how you want things to be run. You need to take those complaints you have, the ones that say the world is not going the way it should, and fashion them into a vision of how you can fix things to make it the way it should be.
You need to take all those complaints about how things are below the level you expect and turn them into a new set of standards that you live by. Those standards can’t be imposed on others, they need to be the standards of your job and you need to role model them for others.
And you need to have the vision for your place in the organization. You need to see the organization the way you want it and see your place in making it the way you want it.
If you have the vision and you have the drive, you can start to make the changes to make the organization follow you to be the way it ‘should’ be. If you don’t, then give up or quit, you can’t complain if you don’t have the guts to try and make it better.
Leadership Mentality Through Discipline
I don’t know if it’s natural, or if it’s socialization, but complaining and criticizing comes so natural. I know I do it all the time. I can’t help it. Even as I try to be better and start each day priming for positive, I still regularly find things to complain about.
It takes a huge effort to maintain that kind of mental control. You need to be always diligent and alert.
As Jim Rohn says, ‘you must tend your garden’, and Tony Robbins echoes, ‘weeds grow automatically’. Which basically means if you don’t actively guard your mind against negative and destructive influences, you will be inundated with negative thoughts. You need to be disciplined to check your thoughts, to surround yourself with good inputs and to eliminate the negative influences from your life.
This takes discipline
So it takes discipline. You need to actively remind yourself every day.
I started this with the incantation, ‘I don’t care for complaining, excuses or problems, I’m looking for solutions’. I started saying it at the start of term and it really did put me into a positive frame of mind. My standards went up and I had greater momentum to get through the day. But then I lost the discipline of forcing myself to think these thoughts. And before I knew it, I was back to my old way of thinking. Back to complaining and looking for excuses and scapegoats.
So for the leadership mentality to take hold it must be a discipline. Every day we need to actively force ourselves to think like a leader. We must be disciplined to cut out the complaining, powerless mind set and insist on the mentality of a leader; over and over, until it starts to become a habit.
Over time you start to catch yourself as you start to complain.
Further discipline to follow, involves following through on your vision. If you have the vision then you need to have the discipline to act. It’s one thing to have the great ideas and to dream up great solutions, but they mean nothing if don’t act. And that’s not always easy. But if you don’t act, you’ll find yourself six months down the track still complaining about the same old issue. Act and fix it. The leadership mentality requires you to be the type who acts – I find I lack this kind of discipline.
To be brief, I found myself complaining about the level of pastoral care at school. I would complain that the programs were too sporadic – not systematic and poorly devised and left up to teachers who had no training and so on. And then the school announced some staff changes and there would be the opportunity to put my hand up and take on one of the welfare roles.
Did I put my hand up?
No, I thought of some ideas, I wondered if I could do it, I pretty quickly came to the conclusion that welfare wasn’t my area and I let an opportunity pass by. And has that area been fixed? No of course not. But I have no right to complain about others who are trying to do a job I didn’t have the fortitude to apply for.
So in future I need to work on this. In hind sight, I believe I would have been better off taking the leadership mentality and putting myself forward. But I will get better, and to be positive I took up the very next opportunity at leadership, so I am trying.
More Types of Discipline
It takes discipline again to overcome the weak voice that wants to say, ‘it’s not my job, they get away with doing nothing, why should I care’.
The leadership mentality is not about making yourself work the same as others. It’s not about criticizing those who aren’t good at their job, or get upset that lazy people are getting by undetected.
Criticizing and complaining about these things is not the way a leader gets things done. A leader sees the problems and leads from the front to change them. A leader models the right actions and tries to inspire others. That is not easy.
No, it’s hard and it will take discipline, but it is probably the only thing that will change the culture of an organization. And again, if it doesn’t change the culture, you become stronger and are ready to move on to a better organization. So it’s advantageous to take on the leader mentality and seek greater responsibility to be the change you want to see.
And this is the final discipline.
The discipline to believe that it will show. That your extra work and extra responsibility will show out to those that matter and that will lift you up. At the end of the day, it will rise you up until you can leave with amazing skills and brilliant recommendations and happy customers who want to chase after you.
I imagine that this is truly the case.
In my current job, I notice a lot of staff turn over, and I truly do notice that people recognize who the leaders are. Those that leave who truly care, do a good job and lead from the front are missed – even if they weren’t adored. Those left behind recognize their value and have nothing but good to say. Those who were just there for the pay check may be remembered by all their friends and admirers, but on an organizational level there is no great memory of them at all.
I realize this and I want to be recognized as greater than just the average forgettable cog in the machine. And so I’m trying.
Leadership Mentality Through Passion
Leadership requires passion. If you don’t care enough, you don’t have the power to change. If you can’t get invested emotionally in the organization, the career, the club or whatever it is, you will simply accept the problems.
To make change you need to become involved and be willing to take risk.
Change and innovation and genuine improvement takes risk. You must risk the extra work, the reputation, the isolation of standing out, the responsibility, the ‘I told you so’s’ and the ‘shouldn’t think you’re so good’ of it all.
It takes risk to lead.
And to take that risk, properly, you must be invested in the project. You need to have inspiration that you can make a positive impact and make things better. Your ego and pride must be tied up in it and you must be invested emotionally.
And if you have that passion – you care, you need to do well, you’re putting your name on it, you feel deeply for the mission and the people involved – then you have the motivation and power to move forward with the kind of determined energy you need.
Passion is Vital
Passion is vital – but too few people spend their days in passion. We, most of the time, turn our passion off so that we can get through the day and do what needs to be done. That is a shame. At the very least, we should have passion for our own journey, our own life, and that sort of passion should force us to strive to be our best and therefore do the best job we can. And when we find that passion, and we start to live it, we either find passion in our jobs, or we can find a path to take us to something we can get passionate about.
Here I have to confess is where I started. I started teaching with passion, but I saw that the system didn’t really support my passionate view of education. So I got passionate about my journey, and that is totally driving me on to the things I’m passionate about and absolutely making me a much better teacher.
Take the leadership mentality and bring passion into your life – it puts so much more motivation and energy into your days.
Leadership Mentality Through Conscience
Finally, the leadership mentality takes conscience. It’s never just about you. The organization, the job, the business, society and all of civilization is a collective. Everything is about dealing with others; colleagues, customers, clients, associates and so on, means working with egos, and needs and wants and fears and desires. And all those relationships and interactions require the need to be professional, fair and civil.
We can never effectively lead by simply demanding others to follow. People follow those who care for them and those who have a vision that is ‘good’. We can be managers by taking on formal authority. And managers can use power relationships to extrinsically motivate people to do their jobs. But true leaders can get people to do the impossible, not by authority, but by caring and by vision.
Here I think of Martin Luther King Jr, or Mahatma Gandhi, or any of the many great heroes we could name.
They were not leaders because they had a position over the people. Martin Luther King Jr was an average man like all those who followed him looking for rights, Gandhi was a powerless Indian man, just like all those who followed him. They didn’t have any special legal authority or power to force their followers to join their cause.
True leaders stand up because they care about their comrades and they have a vision of the ‘right’ thing to do, or the ‘right’ way things should be. They guide not with force or intellect or persuasion (though they may use those things), their leadership comes from empathy. That empathy shows their deep caring and it is what fashions their vision.
So for me, bitching and moaning about the problems of the world won’t make me a leader. It might make me friends. But it won’t solve anything. However, by everyday leading and learning these lessons and forcing myself to be better and giving these lessons on to anyone who might want to read, well it might not make me friends, but it will make me a better person.
And at school, constantly tearing apart every little thing I can find to place some blame onto will not fix anything, and it will actually make me a worse teacher and will eventually erode any efficacy or motivation I have.
Instead, by taking responsibility for those in my charge and for the problems of my colleagues and for the issues of the organization, I have the ability to lead the organization to find solutions.
That is a much more empowering position to operate from. And yes, right now I don’t have the ability to make those great changes. But instead of complaining, I need to get better, stronger, more influential, and then I can act, step by step, until I either fix the problems, or I’m on such a high level I need to move to a better organization.
Final thought on Leadership Mentality
Many people work jobs that give little to no satisfaction. For many, a job is just what we do to get money. We are not invested and we are only partly motivated. And that’s a waste.
Instead of being innovative and helping to create great value, we are trying to get by by passing responsibility and we waste time by allocating blame.
Instead we can take initiative and learn how to lead the organization towards the way we want it to be.
This may not always possible, but as we start to become a leader, we either become powerful enough to find the way to create change, or we become powerful enough to move on.
The leadership mentality is not easy. However, if you want to be the kind of person that makes things happen, then taking initiative, living with vision, discipline, passion and conscience is the way to go from complaining no one to inspired leader.
Be a leader, take on the leadership mentality and challenge yourself to stand out and achieve more than the average person. Be a force for change and make your life better.
That’s what I’m trying to do. If that’s something you’re interested in, please come join our mission to success.
Mission to Success
The mission for success is to take our life to the level of awesome. We are actively learning the lessons that will bring us more success, that will improve the future for our children and will help make the world a better place.
If that’s something you want for your life, feel free to come join the mission for success by clicking here: Mission for Success!
All the best, and remember to keep striving for success.