This guest post is written by Tim Rahschulte, Ph.D, Chief Executive Officer, Professional Development Academy, in partnership with the NACo High Performance Leadership Academy as part of MACo’s Spotlight on Leadership series.
Leadership. Just reading the word leadership likely creates in your mind an image of someone who has inspired you, challenged you, encouraged you and helped you to believe in yourself. It’s likely someone you admire. Who is that person?
Whoever comes to mind right now has something in common with all other great leaders. They all have guiding advice based on their experiences. You may call them laws, mantras, maxims, axioms or aphorisms. They can also be called leadership rules — proven rules for effective leadership.
The first leadership rule presented here represents aspirational ideas, action targets or aiming points.
Rule 1. The foundation of success is a positive mindset. Nothing is achieved without a belief that it can be done. That’s a mindset. Mindset is an attitude that colors our view of the world and what’s possible in — and beyond — it. Mindset is the initiating force behind Elon Musk’s goal to colonize Mars. Similarly, mindset is the initiating force anyone leverages to build something new, reengineer something to be better or to bring about a change in things.
Regardless of whether that change is incremental and evolutionary or transformational and revolutionary, achieving it starts with a positive mindset. Our mindset initiates a sense of possibility from which our behavior and actions follow. Therefore, our mindset serves as the foundation of our results. Those most successful leaders have an unwaveringly positive mindset about who they are and the impact they’ll have.
While all this may seem rather obvious, there’s something else important about our mindset: It has a multiplying effect on those around us. It scales and reaches beyond oneself. The greatest leaders know the power of mindset.
This remarkable power is one reason Colin Powell, arguably one of the greatest leaders in U.S. military history, who retired as a four-star army general, served as secretary of state, led the military of the United States while serving as the chairman of the joint chiefs and authored the book “It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership,” often shares this critical piece of leadership advice: “Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.”
Now, to be sure, the opposite is also true.
Whether negative or positive, your mindset multiplies as it affects those around you. It’s for this reason that Ashley Ferguson, the global director of strategy, governance, risk and compliance at SecureWorks, coaches her employees and believes in the need for leaders to “be positive, be open, be truthful, and stay optimistic.” She emphasizes this because she knows that attitude is contagious, especially if you’re in a leadership role.
If you’re wondering if you’re a leader, know that we’re all leaders some of the time and followers all of the time. So yes, you’re a leader, and therefore your attitude is quite important.
Regardless of role, title, or rank, make the choice to be positive. Have an “it can be done” attitude, which just happens to be another piece of leadership advice from Colin Powell. This positivity is necessary because the root cause of your results is attitude, and the foundation of your success is a positive mindset.
Interested in learning more about leadership tools and skills?
The NACo High Performance Leadership Academy is an innovative, completely online 12-week program created to equip frontline county government professionals with practical leadership skills to deliver results for counties and communities.
With a robust curriculum developed by the Professional Development Academy in partnership with Fortune 1000 executives, public sector leaders, world-renowned academics and thought leaders, including General Colin Powell and Dr. Marshall Goldsmith, HPLA was designed specifically for the unique challenges and opportunities of serving in county government.
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