If you’ve ever attended a lecture on leadership, or scrolled through the homepage of LinkedIn, it’s likely you’ve seen a common depiction of two types of leadership—one with the leader above or behind their employees handing down commands with employees pulling the weight of the task behind them, and another other with the leader at the helm, demonstrating himself what’s expected of the team by participating in the work first-hand.
The difference between these two types of leaders is anchored much deeper than their outward behavior. A leader who depends on fear or authority to drive their employees doesn’t wake up one day deciding to be autocratic, the same way a leader who empowers and inspires employees through example doesn’t wake up one day and decide to start enacting gracious behavior. These differing leadership styles are rooted in the mindset each leader cultivates, and mindset is deeper than behavior.
Books, articles and websites dedicated to teaching leadership tactics are innumerable, but very few address mindset, which undergirds any behavior or tactic we may attempt to adopt or drop. Our mindset is our way of being—how we view others and the world around us. It’s easy for us to behave in a particular way, but it’s quite different for us to see in a particular way. Good leadership is dependent on how we view people, situations, challenges and victories.
When we adopt an inward mindset, we become self-focused. We care a lot about being liked rather than earning respect, we’re threatened rather than inspired by others, we see others as in our way rather than of inherent worth and contribution. Simply put, leadership with an inward mindset isn’t really leadership at all. We’re often frustrated with others and believe that we’ve been driven to anger, or that ‘tough love’ is the only tactic that will work.
“Yelling at people, demeaning them, using nasty language—these are not wise or effective management tactics. Anger will lead you to make rash and, frankly, stupid decisions as a leader,” writes Bill English of San Francisco Business Times.
When we adopt an outward mindset, however, we’re focused on collective results. We’re interested in coaching rather than impelling others to do our will. We’re focused on enthusiasm rather than fear. We seek to understand rather than blame. Instead of using people to accomplish our personal goals, we develop people to accomplish collective goals.
As the leader of a team, a division or an entire company—which type of leader are you?