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Become a Better Manager: 20 Leadership Examples to Inspire Your Team

Become a Better Manager: 20 Leadership Examples to Inspire Your Team

People are inspired by positive leadership examples. The average American cannot name their congressional representative, but they know the name and story of Mother Teresa. Few people have been inspired enough to pack their bags and live a life of servitude in Calcutta, but Mother Teresa’s sacrifices made many treat their fellow man with more dignity and grace.

Managers have a spectrum of tools for getting employees to do what needs doing. All too often, managers lean on authority – direction, intimidations, bullying – which inspires nobody.

When directed and not inspired, employees will work the minimum number of hours and make the least amount of effort required to keep their jobs. Conversely, an inspired employee can’t wait to get to work, will be highly motivated, infinitely creative, and work until the task is done very well.

Here are a number of ways you inspire and lead by example:

1. Be totally honest and transparent no matter what

Trust is the foundation of every relationship. A lack of trust breeds a lack of everything else.

Trust then becomes an imperative in the workplace. When you are openly honest, even when it hurts your own prospects, you sow the seeds of trust and that in turn grows a garden of commitment by your employees.

Dishonesty is an herbicide in that same garden.

2. Be a willing listener

Some people listen unwillingly and it shows. The speaker feels marginalized and unimportant. People who feel like that simply do not care enough to try.

When listening, absorb everything the person is saying, including how they are saying it.

Understand their communication holistically, including emotional nuances. When you do, your employees feel that you genuinely care… because you do.

3. Be their friend

Some folks say to not get too close to your people. I have found the opposite to be true.

Think of someone you know and like, who has shown a true interest in you.

Next, think of a casual acquaintance.

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Now imagine both of them asking you to help them move.

Who would you help haul a sofa down a flight of stairs?

4. Praise often and genuinely

I do not mean inauthentic, smarmy compliments. I mean watch what your employees do and be sincerely grateful for jobs well done.

It is gratitude that makes praise authentic.

5. Be humble, not arrogant

Humility is the modest view of one’s own importance.

The fact is that you, as a manager, will only be as successful as your team makes you. That means your employees are more important than you are, at least in terms of corporate performance.

Lording over those who will make or break you is arrogant and will lead to you being humbled the hard way.

6. Manage by walking around

Leadership is getting things done through people. If you are not connecting with your people often, in person, in their environment, then you cannot know their issues, their concerns, and their problems.

Getting out of your office and onto the shop floor will make employees feel you are part of their world because you are.

7. Set the example of work ethic you expect from your employees

This does not mean suffering 12-hour work days. This means demonstrating the qualities you want to see from your employees, be it precision, innovation, frugality, or even politeness.

All elements that involve work are part of the ethic and will not be held dear by your employees unless they see it in you.

8. Dress in the manner that you expect employees to dress

I ran a semiconductor company, and many of our employees wore “bunny suits” because they worked in an ultra-clean environment. These exceptions aside, people will adopt the local dress code.

You set the tone. Very few employees would dare show up to work in torn blue jeans if the boss normally wears a jacket and tie.

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In every team, there is a minimal level of professionalism, and that is expressed in part by how one dresses.

If you want the right professionalism from your team, wear the clothes that reflect that professional appeal.

9. Be kind and empathetic

Bullies do have followers who are mainly other bullies, and they only stick around as long as the power of money flows from the top.

But a great leader knows that kindness generates loyalty that lasts. To be kind requires empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of another (you can be polite without empathy, but being kind starts with understanding the person within).

10. Never use vulgar or condescending language

You cannot inspire people through harshness. Vulgar language, regrettably in vogue these days, is harsh and has one of two effects on employees – it either makes them harsh themselves, or it makes them not want to engage you.

Either way, you lose.

The same applies to condescension. Combine the two and you will have a very high employee turnover rate.

11. Treat everyone with the proper dignity and respect

Dignity and respect are intertwined. If you do not respect someone, you are more apt to not treat them with dignity.

Start with the idea that everyone gets 100 percent credit up-front. Then don’t reduce that credit except for serious matters.

In this way, everyone you want to inspire automatically receives the dignity they want and likely deserve.

12. Ask, “How can I help?”

“How can I help?” communicates a number of things in four words. It says you care about them and their needs. It says you want to make them successful. It communicates that their needs are important, and thus your employees are important as well.

If your employees trust you – and if you follow the previous examples they should – then they will tell you what they need, and that allows you to make them successful.

As a side effect, it will make you successful too.

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13. Act with Integrity

Integrity is doing what’s right even when no one is watching. But people are always watching.

When you act without integrity, employees become motivated to watch out for themselves, not for you and not for the company.

Likewise, when you demonstrate integrity, it communicates that it is expected.

14. Be the optimist

Who follows a pessimist? Nobody.

So, smile a lot, talk about what is gloriously possible, and how your teams will make it happen.

JFK was optimistic, and his outlook caused mankind to leave the planet and land on the moon.

15. Have a can-do attitude

A defeatist is a person who expects or is ready to accept failure. If you, as a leader, expect failure, why would anyone on your team want to work toward success? They would not.

So even under the toughest situations, stay positive and assume that success can be had.

When employees see an optimistic leader, one who says, “This may be tough, but we can do it,” they will indeed do it.

16. Be the visionary

You need to have an objective and communicate it clearly. Let employees see the mission, why it is good, and why they are essential to achieving it. This crafting of the vision need not be expansive.

An IT department might make a mission of zero downtime. A marketing department might establish a vision for creating an unbreakable brand. Your production facility could strive for 10 percent more output.

Make the vision good, achievable and most of all, understood by all.

17. Guide them, not drive them

Anyone who has worked cattle – and I have – knows that if you push a herd too hard, they will spook and stampede. But gently guiding a herd toward a corral works pretty well.

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Employees are not cattle, but they also do better when you set frameworks and expectations (guidance) and then get out of their way.

18. Promote doing whatever it takes, no excuses

Aside from maintaining ethical employee behavior, letting your team know that the mission is important enough to require their ardent efforts is a reflection of your commitment to the company.

The best way to do this involves you doing whatever it takes. Putting in visible extra effort shows that you are in the game for keeps, and that your team should be as well.

19. Don’t just criticize a mistake

One old adage says to never complain unless you have a better idea. Likewise, criticizing an employee for making a mistake, but not helping them learn from their mistake is merely complaining.

We all make mistakes, and we all should learn from them.

A great example for you to set is showing that as a team, we help one another learn, including learning when we mess up.

20. Do the tough things first

It is important to tackle the difficult and unpleasant tasks right away, every day. I call it “eating the ugly frog first.”

People tend to procrastinate, and do so very well for big, complicated, onerous tasks. But no great project ever progresses until the big, complicated, onerous tasks are completed.

When your team sees you assaulting the elephant in the room, they gain the conviction and courage necessary to do likewise.

The type of employee you have is a reflection on you. The example you set and the integrity you demonstrate determine how inspired your team is. Start leading by example and lead your team towards success!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Ray Zinn

Ray Zinn is an inventor, entrepreneur, investor, angel, bestselling author and the longest serving CEO of a publicly traded company in Silicon Valley.

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Last Updated on December 2, 2019

How to Develop Mental Toughness And Stay Strong

How to Develop Mental Toughness And Stay Strong

Are you the kind of person who wants to achieve massive success in your life? Do you have the mental toughness to make that happen?

I think we can all agree that no matter your ambitions, achieving success can be difficult; and over time, the daily grind can take a toll on your physical, mental, and emotional energy.

Achievers and high performers from all walks of life face ups and downs along the path to success—they face failure, burnout, discouragement, fatigue, self-limiting beliefs, stress, and so much more.

How do some people continually strive towards their personal goals year after year while others give up on them? How do those people stay strong and persevere when there is so much stacked against them?

Studies now show that mental strength is a critical key to success. If you haven’t read Angela Duckworth’s book Grit, you should. In it, she shows that “the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a special blend of passion and persistence she calls ‘grit.’” In other words, mental toughness plays a significant role when it comes to achieving goals.

Sometimes, our goals wear us down and leave us feeling exhausted. Other times, our goals get difficult, and success seems impossible, so we lose hope, become discouraged, and want to quit.

At its core, mental toughness is simply the ability to stick to something when the going gets tough. People with high levels of mental toughness can push beyond these obstacles and forge a path towards success while those with lower levels of mental toughness may abandon their dreams.

Want to know the good news?

No matter who you are, what you’ve been told, or what you currently believe, you can develop the mental toughness you need to be successful.

All you need to do is learn to develop a positive mindset, focus on your why, and utilize the people around you for support.

1. Develop a Positive Mindset

If you’re going to increase your mental toughness, the first thing you have to do is focus on building a strong, positive mindset.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, the average person has 60,000 thoughts per day. Of those, 95% of those thoughts repeat each day and, on average, 80% of repeated ideas are negative.[1]

That’s roughly 45,600 negative thoughts per day!

Carrying around these negative thoughts is like going on a hike in the mountains with a backpack full of rocks. The hike is hard enough on its own, but having extra junk weighing you down is a recipe for failure.

Sometimes, building mental toughness isn’t as much about building new strength as it is about saving your strength for the right tasks. Wouldn’t it be easier to dump the rocks out of the backpack instead of trying to get strong enough to carry the extra weight?

Absolutely!

But how can we learn to spot those 45,600 negative thoughts and get rid of them? How can we empty our metaphorical backpack?

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Well, it gets a whole lot easier if you know what you’re looking for. Some of the most prominent types of negative thoughts are self-limiting beliefs, all-or-nothing thinking, and dwelling.

Let Go of Self-Limiting Beliefs

It’s pretty hard to be mentally tough when you’re constantly beating yourself up. Self-limiting beliefs are any beliefs that hold you back in some way. Here are some examples:

“I’m not smart enough to…”

“I don’t have enough experience to…”

“I’ve tried that before, and it didn’t go well, so I must just be bad at…”

When we allow these self-limiting beliefs to flood our minds, negative self-talk runs rampant, and we crowd out our ability to think positively. We’re effectively working against ourselves.

If you want to keep your mind strong on your path to success, you have to overcome the self-limiting beliefs that are holding you back by realizing one key truth: self-limiting beliefs are thoughts, not facts.

When you recognize a self-limiting belief cropping up in your mind, quickly silence it by telling yourself that it’s not true and then back that up with some positive affirmations:

  • “I am smart enough; I may just need to do some more research first.”
  • “I may not have as much experience as someone else, but that’s not going to stop me from trying. I have enough experience to get started. I’ll figure the rest out on the way.”
  • “Just because I failed at this last time doesn’t mean I’m going to fail this time. My past does not dictate my future.”

Get Rid of the All-or-Nothing Thinking

Another form of negative thinking that could be preventing you from building mental toughness is all-or-nothing thinking.

All-or-nothing thinking is the concept of thinking in extremes. You are either a success or a failure. Your performance was totally good or totally awful. If you’re not perfect, then you’re a failure.

But this isn’t true!

If you’re trying to lose 30 pounds and only lost 28, isn’t that still better than not losing any weight at all? I’d say so!

If you allow all-or-nothing thinking to rule your mind, you’ll be on cloud nine when you succeed, but you’ll beat yourself up when you “fail.” Acknowledging the shades of gray in between will allow you to see success more often and it will help you celebrate your smaller wins.

When you recognize an all-or-nothing thought, remember to look for the positive in the situation. What did you gain by trying? What would you have missed out on had you not tried? Could you do better if you were to try again?

Ditch the Dwelling

Self-Limiting Beliefs and All-or-Nothing Thinking can lead to a bad case of dwelling on the negative. If you want to build some mental toughness and keep your mind strong, you have to ditch the dwelling.

Every day, bad things happen to each of us, and while there’s nothing we can do to prevent that, we can control how we react to these situations.

When we dwell on our misfortunes, we waste massive amounts of energy that we could be using to achieve our goals. When this happens, we’re more likely to quit altogether.

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But that doesn’t mean you’re not mentally tough; it just means you’re misusing your energy.

The next time something bad happens, it’s important to allow yourself to feel the disappointment and frustration, but work on reducing the amount of time you dwell on the situation.

Easier said than done, right? Try these:

  1. Call a friend or mentor and talk it through with them. Get some outside perspective on your situation.
  2. Time block your dwelling by allowing yourself to dwell for no more than one hour.
  3. Then, tell yourself to move on, that you’re human, and you’re allowed to make mistakes or experience setbacks.
  4. If all else fails, find a good way to distract yourself until you can calm down and reexamine things with a clear mind.

The faster you can focus on the positives and move past the problem, the quicker you can get back to achieving success in your life.

Be Patient about the Process

No matter which negative thoughts tend to run around your mind, working to replace them with positive thoughts can take time.

Learning to spot self-limiting beliefs, all-or-nothing thinking, or dwelling is one thing, but learning to quiet those thoughts is another thing entirely.

If at first you don’t succeed, don’t fret. Instead, take a deep breath and try again. As you work towards improving your mindfulness and your mental toughness, remember that you’re going to get better with time.

To make things a little easier, it helps to connect with your purpose.

2. Connect with Your Purpose

One of the most critical elements to building mental toughness and keeping a strong and focused mind is having a strong ‘why’ for everything you want to do.

If you set out to achieve a huge goal that you don’t have a ‘why’ for, you’re going to find yourself distracted, discouraged, or disengaged as soon as you experience your first setback.

Think about the last time you were working on a goal or resolution and things weren’t going well, maybe you even wanted to quit. Perhaps you thought you didn’t have enough willpower. Maybe you told yourself that you didn’t have enough discipline.

Here’s the truth: you just didn’t have a strong enough why.

Simon Sinek has been spreading his message “Start with Why” across the globe.[2] In short, he says that:

“Your ‘why’ is the purpose, cause or belief that inspires you.”

One of the biggest drains on your mental energy is pursuing a goal or a task that you don’t have a ‘why’ for. This is when we tend to look for external motivation or question our willpower, but those aren’t the issues.

Often, we set goals because we like the idea of the goal, not the reality of the goal. Without connecting to our why, we can’t intrinsically motivate ourselves to achieve our most challenging goals.

Find Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation is our innate desire to do something and it comes when we work towards something that satisfies ourselves above all else—not our parents or our bosses or our teachers.

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Let’s say you think you want to quit smoking because you know it’s bad for you, but you really enjoy smoking. If you don’t truly want to quit smoking, it’s going to be nearly impossible, regardless of your willpower or mental toughness.

But if you want to quit smoking because you just had a baby, and you don’t want your baby growing up around smoke, then that ‘why’ is going to give you intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is far more powerful than sheer stubborn willpower, and it’s far easier to maintain over the long haul.

If you’re trying to develop mental toughness, connecting a why to everything you want to achieve will reduce the effort and energy it will take to achieve those things. Once you’ve found a strong why for all of your goals, you’ll find that you’ll have significantly more energy to pursue your more difficult challenges.

3. Find Strength in Unity

The final aspect of developing mental toughness is embracing the idea that you’re not in this alone. It’s a fact, anyone who’s ever achieved success in anything didn’t do so alone.

Bill Gates didn’t build Microsoft alone. Oprah didn’t build her network by herself. Steve Jobs didn’t invent the iPhone without a team. Michelle Obama didn’t implement the “Let’s Move” campaign on her own.

Behind all of these successful people were countless other people who were there offering support, mentorship, guidance, and encouragement.

If you want to develop unmatched mental toughness, you need to understand that you don’t have to go it alone. Even the toughest Navy Seals have a team backing them up.

If you want to stay strong in your endeavors, you need to build a team of supporters who will step in and back you up when it counts.

Find a Mentor or Committee of Mentors

The benefits of having a great mentor are far too many to list, but to boil it down to the basics, a mentor is someone who will help show you the path to success.

A good mentor will help you discover your greatest strengths, spot and overcome your blind spots, and work through your weaknesses.

If you’re struggling to deal with your internal negativity or with finding your purpose, talk it through with a mentor. Sometimes we lose the forest for the trees, and a mentor can help us take a step back and see the bigger picture.

Here’s how to find the right mentor for yourself: How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed

Recruit Some Cheerleaders

If you want to stay strong, it never hurts to have a group of personal cheerleaders. Unlike mentors who are going to jump in and help you address your problems, a group of cheerleaders will help keep your spirits up.

Even if you have a strong ‘why’ and a positive mindset, it’s nearly impossible to maintain a positive attitude 100% of the time. It doesn’t make you weak to need some help from time to time. Having a group of people cheering you on will make all the difference in the world.

As you work towards your goals, tell a few close friends about what you’re doing, and when things get tough, tell them about it. And when they give you the pep talk you need, don’t resist their positivity or counter it with your self-limiting beliefs or your all-or-nothing attitude.

Allow their optimism to refill your energy and use that energy to press on.

Form an Accountability Group

Cheerleaders are great, but sometimes we need someone to give us the kick we need to keep going. You might have a strong ‘why’ for running a marathon or losing 30 pounds, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy; and trying to force yourself to follow through is a sure way to tax your mental energy.

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Why not save some of your mental energy by forming an accountability group?

Find a person or a few people who have similar goals, or at the very least, the need for an accountability partner. Then, form an agreement within the group to push each other every day.

Even if your goals aren’t the same, accountability partners are great for giving us the push we need when we need it most.

Regardless of which relationships you choose, sometimes we have to be able to work through things on our own. Mentors, cheerleaders, and accountability partners are a great way for us to combat our naturally negative mindsets, but occasionally we have to be able to pick ourselves back up.

4. Learn to Pick Yourself Back Up After Setbacks

Building a strong mindset and developing mental toughness isn’t easy! Anyone who’s ever achieved massive success knows that obstacles, setbacks, and failure are inevitable, and you’re no different.

As you work on your goals, you’re going to face many ups and downs, but this doesn’t mean that you don’t have mental toughness, willpower, or discipline.

We all struggle. We all fail. It’s what we decide to do after we fail that truly counts.

When you find yourself in a low spot, ask yourself these questions:

  • “Am I being too hard on myself?”
  • “Are negative thoughts such as Self-Limiting Beliefs or All-or-Nothing Thinking distorting my view?”
  • “What’s the positive side of this setback/obstacle/failure?”
  • “Why was this goal important to me? What was my purpose?”
  • “Is this goal still important to me? Do I still have a ‘why’?”
  • “Who can I ask for help? Who can mentor me or cheer me on? Who can help hold me accountable?”

Asking yourself these questions is a great way to check in on your mindset. When we get lost in negative thinking or lose connection to our purpose, it’s far too easy to become discouraged. When we feel discouraged, we start feeling weak, maybe even a little hopeless.

Also, this article provides some useful tips to help you get back on track: How to Deal with Failure and Pick Yourself Back Up

Tying it All Together

Are you still with me? I know I’ve thrown a lot at you, from developing a positive mindset and combatting your internal voice to connecting with purpose and building a committee of mentors. It’s a lot to take it!

But here’s the bottom line:

A crucial part of developing mental toughness is learning to recognize these tendencies and taking action to correct them early on. Developing mental toughness is not about eliminating weakness, but learning how to deal with it and overcome it.

No one is perfect, but when we focus on the right things, we can develop a mental toughness worthy of life’s biggest challenges.

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Featured photo credit: Zulmaury Saavedra via unsplash.com

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