Over the past 20-plus years of coaching, many leaders have come to me saying they want better results.
They want to grow their businesses, sharpen their leadership and strengthen their relationships. They want to change a behavior or learn a new skill. They always want improved results somewhere in their business or life.
But change doesn’t start with results. Long-term, transformational change starts on the inside. Only then can we get rid of limiting beliefs and find lift in our leadership and our lives.
It starts with clarifying what we believe about ourselves, about our roles, about our relationships and about humanity. It starts with understanding what we believe is possible and what we believe is not.
Our beliefs impact how we engage in our roles and interact with other people — and that determines the kinds of results we get as spouses, as parents, as friends and especially as leaders of organizations.
Having had the privilege of working with thousands of leaders over the years, here are seven beliefs I’ve seen in the best of the best.
The wisest leaders believe they were created for a purpose. They believe they’re here for a reason, not by some random accident.
Knowing that purpose allows them to see beyond themselves and live out their true calling and passion in every aspect of their lives and businesses.
Leaders who are connected to their purpose can better engage both the heads and hearts of those they lead and serve. They see every engagement with others as an opportunity to add value and make a positive difference regardless of their position or title.
They believe they are to serve in ways that engage and leverage the talents, skills and energy of those they serve to accomplish something that is much bigger and better than just one or two lagging metrics.
Wise leaders believe they’re responsible for creating a better tomorrow, and they believe they can do it.
Without a clear and compelling belief about what we can (and will) accomplish in the future, leaders often go into defense and protect mode.
People on our teams won’t have much fun following us when all we’re saying is, “All right, we’re going to play it safe for the next three years and try not to blow it.”
That’s not leadership — that’s management. And it’s not even good management. When leaders clearly see a better future, they’re compelled to take risks and engage with their teams at a heart level. And engagement is essential to excellent innovation, execution and team performance.
These leaders get people to step up and out so they can accomplish extraordinary things.
Wise leaders believe all people are created equal and that each person is unique and special.
These leaders don’t come in and say, “I’m above you.” They say, “I’m one of you.” They want to bring out the best in everybody they meet.
They watch how we treat our food servers when out for a meal, with the cab driver when stuck in traffic or with the airline customer service representative when our flights are delayed for one of many reasons.
Our teams are watching us — they see how we interact with everybody around us, and they’re making conscious and subconscious decisions about how they will follow us.
They see whether we’re present with the people in front of us or prioritizing the strangers and acquaintances on our smartphone screens. They see whether we’re living out of a belief that people are incredibly special.
Wise leaders believe in serving others, especially those on their teams.
These leaders turn the organizational structure upside down. They understand that leadership is about bringing out the best in a group of people, so that the group can accomplish something extraordinary that the leader on his or her own could never have accomplished.
Leadership is a privilege and a responsibility — there’s a weight to it. We’re here to serve one another in ways that bring out the best in them.
One of our CEO Mentors, Jerry Baker, always tells leaders that they should spend 50 percent of their time “up and out.” In Jerry’s past career as a CEO and chairman of large organizations, he would often sit down at the corner of any of his teammates’ desks to ask, “How’s your day going? What do you need to succeed? What’s going well, what’s not going well? What do you need to be the best version of you?”
He knew that he held a position of influence, so he wanted to use that to serve his teammates and bring out the best in them.
Leadership does require management and instruction at times, but the belief of servanthood changes how you engage with everyone on your team and in your life. Wise leaders serve those they lead so they can be the best they can be.
Wise leaders believe in team. They understand that the best teams build the best cultures, retain the best talent and achieve the best results.
These leaders believe everything rests on team, so they hire slow, with a long-term perspective. Then they coach their people to bring out the best in one another.
They invest in team health and provide opportunities for their teammates to connect, build trust and get to know each other not just professionally, but personally.
Teammates are not afraid to hold one another accountable, not only to achieving the results they’ve committed to, but also to following the behaviors that the entire team has committed to.
Teams that engage in that type of truth-telling can really go somewhere. Yes, it’s uncomfortable — but healthy teams are willing to engage in dynamic tension so that they can perform at higher levels.
I recently asked one of our CEO mentors, former Ford Motor Company executive Tom Brewer, about his beliefs about team. He says that if you don’t believe in your people, you will get nowhere. No matter how great your strategy is, leadership is about building the capability of the team and its members. If you’re better than and know more than your direct reports, he says, you’re in trouble.
Wise leaders know how little they know. They believe there is so much to learn.
These leaders are always asking questions. They are always thinking about things, because they want to make the right decisions. They want to make sure they have the right inputs and the right perspectives.
I love what Patrick Lencioni says in his book, “The Ideal Team Player.” He writes that the best leaders are humble, hungry and smart.
If you know how little you know, then you’re comfortable asking for help and input. You don’t have to be a know-it-all; instead, you can empower your teammates to share their knowledge with you.
Nobel Prize-winning writer Naguib Mahfouz once said, “You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.”
The wisest leaders are curious. They crave knowledge.
The wisest leaders believe time is their most precious asset. It’s not something to be filled or squandered. It’s something to be present in and to maximize.
These leaders are hyper-effective and hyper-engaged — not hyper-busy. They fill their time with the things that matter most. They invest time doing what only they can do for the organization.
The higher you climb the corporate ladder, the more important it is for you to invest time into thinking, reflecting, planning and connecting.
That doesn’t mean that the wisest, most effective leaders are always available. In fact, there’s a good chance they are not available, because they’re so focused on what matters most that it’s just not possible for them to show up to every meeting. They have to say “no” to good things so that they can say “yes” to great things.
It’s a difficult dance, but the wisest leaders believe that they’re responsible for how they invest themselves, moment by moment and day by day.
What Do You Believe?
Your current beliefs are either lifting or limiting your leadership. They’re impacting the decisions you make, the influence you have and the results you see every day, for better or worse.
So take a hard look at your beliefs to understand what they are and what you want them to be.
As you clarify and shift your beliefs, you’ll be able to experience inner change, which will undoubtedly lead to greater and longer-lasting results.