For some, shifting into a leader’s mindset is intuitive, something that comes easy. For many others, that shift can take significant time and effort. And be quite humbling.
To explain this shift, I use an analogy about running a marathon. If you know me at all, you know that I’m the most non-athletic person you’ll ever meet. Before actually doing it, I never thought I could finish a marathon. But when I finished, it was incredibly rewarding. Part of my reward was how excited I was to have people I cared about also run a marathon.
As we began to train for the next marathon, I realised with some of them that I was not necessarily helping them run their marathon. My intentions were good, I thought I was helping them, but I was still in the mindset of “I’m running my marathon, and I want to improve my time.” It was this lens of “I’m excited you’re doing this with me, and I really hope you can do it. But, in the end, I’m more focused on my time than I am on you completing your first marathon.”
Similarly, the one thing you can do to shift into a leader’s mindset is to ask yourself, “Am I ready to be a leader? Or am I still running my own metaphorical marathon?”
There are people who go through their entire lives without being in a formal leadership position, and they’re wildly successful human beings and business people. There’s no shame in that at all. But it is regrettable if you’ve convinced yourself you’re ready for a formal leadership role, saying “I’m going to be responsible for these people,” but internally you’re still focused on your own individual success. Sometimes we have to ponder deeply to figure this out.
I would advise new leaders, leaders who are thinking about going into a formal leadership role, or leaders who have been in one for a while: be true to yourself and be fair to those who you are leading. There’s no shame in this at all. The only shame is in pretending to care more about your team than you do about yourself when you really don’t.