Breaking Down the Leadership Mindset

In 2006 my life changed. Not only did I fail to make the Winter Olympics after an eight year career as a national team bobsleigh pilot, I also began the journey of reinventing who I was and trying to determine what value I could add to the world without the Olympics on my resume.

During this process of self-discovery I devoured several books. One in particular completely shifted the way I look at the world, Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset (you can also check out her Ted Talk video). Her work on the psychology of success has become paramount in the development world and I certainly recommend this as a must-read in 2017.

Your mindset is the operating system that drives your personal hardware – influencing the behaviors and actions you take. For the last 10 years, I have been using the fundamentals of Dweck’s mindset with senior leadership teams across the world and have broken it down into 6 principles.

Like anything else, developing your mindset is a practice and takes time. Direct your focus now in developing the mindset you want and it will have a significant impact on how you shape your career.

If you haven’t already begun the practice, start building your leadership mindset by focusing on one of the 6 principles below.

The 6 Principles of a Leader’s Mindset


I was speaking with a senior leader in the banking industry last week and he shared with me that his leadership took a giant leap when we became clear on what he wanted his legacy to be in the business. What do you stand for? What impact do you want to have? These are a few of the questions you should be considering. If you want more, Jeff Boss writes about the 6 principles of a leadership legacy. Your legacy becomes the foundation of your mindset and the origin of the powerful viruses you spread to your colleagues and within the business.


Generally, how do individual contributors become managers? By taking on a big workload and knocking it out of the park. Well, when it comes to leading others, it’s a different skill-set. You have to bypass what got you there (getting sh*t done) and focus on how to help others grow. Seek ways to foster collaboration, network and build strong relationships – and most importantly, focus on growing others.


The lifespan of a company on the S&P 500 is quickly shrinking. Leaders, more than ever, have to be quick to respond to the changing markets, customer demands and advances in technology. One way you can do this is through developing mental models to help you navigate the road ahead. One tool we use with leaders to exercise their anticipation muscle is to leverage the power of the pre-mortem.


When I was in college, my sociologist professor told us that deviance breeds innovation. He was referring to the justice system, but it really breeds innovation everywhere. When customers make different choices, we are forced to respond differently. The economy tanks and we are forced to innovate. A relationship blows up and we have to find a different approach. Leaders that take on a deviant mindset don’t get stuck in old ways – they break rules, stay curious and create intentional chaos that inspires innovation.


A critical part of a leadership mindset is creating space for self-reflection and evaluation. This can be tough in a fast-paced, demanding business environment where time for reflection often gets sacrificed for the urgent. Just like a high-performance sport athlete, you should bookend your days, starting with getting intentional about your leadership behaviors and tasks, followed by a honest reflection on how you did. This alone is a secret weapon that will expedite your growth and allow you to better serve others within the business.


The real world doesn’t give participation medals, so how do we develop the capacity to withstand failure and reduce down-time after we experience the inevitable turbulence in our career?

Legendary football coach Lou Holtz shares his philosophy of W.I.N.,What’s Important Now?

When you adopt a resilient mindset, you understand that you are never a finished product. Like a muscle requires stress and resistance to grow, our ability to withstand greater business challenges are reliant on experiencing some losses. When you quickly leverage your learning, let go of your bruised ego, and ask yourself, What’s Important Now?, you grow your resilience and start to turn those losses into wins.

Which principle will you focus on in the next year?