When my niece, Stephanie, was 12 years old she was asked what leadership lessons she had learned from being school captain in her final year in primary school. Her answer was that it was the chance to give other people leadership opportunities so that they could be great leaders. It was an amazingly mature expression of the ultimate job of a leader, which is to create more leaders. She was thinking like a leader.
How do you shift your mindset to think like a leader? INSEAD Professor, Herminia Ibarra in her book, Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader, proposes that acting like a leader comes first; thinking like a leader follows action. It’s contrary to the usual think first and then act approach. She suggests that, “…the way we think is a product of our past experience. The only way to change how you think, therefore, is to do different things.” Her research demonstrates that who you are as a leader is not just about the formative experiences in your past, but about the possibilities you invent for yourself in the future.
One way to act like a leader and create a new future is to make stretch commitments that take you outside your comfort zone and propel you into action. If the commitment is big enough, then you will need a great team around you to deliver on it. The big shift in thinking is how to cause your team to step up, instead of doing it by yourself. If you make enough big commitments and shift your thinking to giving others permission to be great leaders, you will change the game within your sphere of influence.
Stephanie shifted her thinking at a young age after stepping into a leadership role. The process continues throughout your leadership journey. As you make bigger and bigger commitments you will keep acting and thinking like a leader.
Are you acting and thinking like a leader?