Leadership is a State of Mind


Your state informs your leadership.

If you are in a negative state, you will be oriented toward negative forms of leadership behavior and negative outcomes.

If you are in a positive state, you will be oriented toward positive forms of leadership behavior and positive outcomes.

Simple, right?

Yet, how often do you really pay attention to the state of your emotions, your thoughts and your body throughout the day?

Pause for a moment and reflect on the last few days or weeks. Perhaps you recall a time where your state sabotaged your leadership. You know you could have made a better choice or acted differently but in the moment it felt as though you were directed by forces you could not control.

In another scenario, you were empowered and inspired. You were able to sift through ideas and make effective decisions. People reacted positively to your energy and at the end of the experience you felt satisfied and productive.

Same problems. Different state.

Negative State

Your mind is conditioned for survival. It senses a threat and your body and emotions respond without your permission. Thoughts race, creating a story that amplifies the risk. Making it feel worse than it really is. Your body becomes tight, closed and tense.

From this state your view is narrow. Options are limited. There is little room for creativity or understanding. You become focused on eliminating the threat or mitigating the risk.  Problem-solving is one-dimensional.

Now, go deal with the work issue or have the difficult conversation with your manager.

You get the picture.

Positive State

When you are in a positive state your mind is open. Creativity and possibility flow easily. Thoughts are helpful and constructive. Your body is relaxed and you have ample energy available for the task or challenge. You feel calm and centered.

From this state, you have the ability to make elegant decisions. Options available and you are receptive to diversity and possibility. You can see the problem from different perspectives and choose your response.

Same challenges but now you’re coming at them from a much better place.

You are the Programmer

If you are in agreement up to this point then the obvious question is, “how can I spend more time in a positive state that will empower me to be a better and more effective leader?”

Many of the triggers that put us into a negative state were programmed through our life experiences. We learned behaviors that we thought would help us survive or overcome problems we faced along the way.

The beautiful truth is that you can overwrite those programs. You can find entire books on this topic so I’m just going to provide a few starting points for you to consider.

  • Awareness – The first step is learning to become aware of your state. Since many of the triggers are unconscious they can run on autopilot and overrun your ability to think clearly. Practice pausing and bringing your attention to your body. Feel your breath. Observe what is going on inside you.
  • Alternatives – Give yourself new emotional and physical sources from which to draw when you need to change your state. A lot of people find that focusing on gratitude can be very helpful but there are many other options such as exercise, meditation, humor, etc. The point is to replace rather than suppress the negative energy.
  • Anchors – Get clear on your values. The person you want to be. The kind of leader you want to be. Your goals and mission in life. These words and themes will give your mind a picture that you can leverage when you are feeling a negative state coming on.
  • Accountability – Sometimes you get so deeply attached to or entangled by a negative state that you can’t seem to wake yourself up. That’s when it helps to have someone who you can trust to tell you what they see and offer you encouragement. Give them permission. Sometimes a word from a trusted friend is all you need to break the trance.

You can’t separate your leadership actions from your emotional, mental and physical state. What’s going on inside will show up on the outside.

Leadership is a state of mind.

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