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Leadership is more of a mindset and less of a skill set

09 Feb '24
9 min read


Is the shifting landscape impacting you, your leadership, and/or your company?

If so, through this article I may be able to give you some tips or pointers that would help you in your leadership career.

Business leaders today face unprecedented challenges. An increasingly connected global economy, nonstop technological advances, and rapid demographic shifts are disrupting the business environment on a scale never seen


The number of old industries is dying and new industries are being born. In many cases, what was once imagined in science fiction is now a reality. 

In the face of this extreme level of change, organizations must either adapt or face the possibility of extinction.

The pace of change around us is so enormous it puts very heavy demands on leaders. They must think strategically and globally, inspire innovation and culture change, lead with strong vision and purpose, collaborate across the enterprise, and manage ever-increasing levels of complexity. 

Leaders are being asked to reinvent themselves and their organizations. Tried-and-tested leadership approaches alone are not enough to meet this challenge. What is required is an appreciation and nurturing of a new leadership mindset… that allows leaders to keep pace with … and stay ahead of the changes that are swirling around them.

A leadership mindset is defined by… how we see ourselves in our professional roles and the stories we tell others about who we are. 

It is one of the most important, least understood, and most

neglected elements in the evolution of a leader.

Most of today’s senior leaders grew up in a world driven by product innovation and operational efficiency. That environment shaped their experiences and career trajectories, determined what they valued and prioritized, and drove their decisions and behaviors. 

But that world has changed. 

Today’s business environment is characterized by rapidly changing strategies, business-model innovation, and operational transformation. 

Leaders trapped in yesterday’s mindset often struggle to find their place and voice in this new business world.

We find three mindset transitions are consistently challenging:

•         The shift from functional to enterprise kind of leader.

•         The shift from subject expert to manager.

•         The shift from product innovator to business model innovator.

To successfully navigate these transitions, leaders

must fundamentally change how they see themselves and their businesses. 

They must abandon outdated assumptions, embrace

challenging growth experiences, and form new business relationships. 

Leaders must be willing to embark on a deeply personal level to develop a new mindset.

Leadership is not just a skill. It’s a mindset. 

Having the mindset that can inspire you to feel that …

whatever comes, I can handle it; 

I can lead it, and I will figure out what to do… 

…this kind of willingness will open doors that you didn’t even know existed. 

Good leadership requires continuously looking at yourself and making continuous improvements.

Being a great leader means continuously working to maintain, hone, enhance, and develop leadership skills.

Being a leader of today’s workforce – demands a giving of oneself: a willingness to admit weaknesses and a willingness to learn, and relearn to change and grow. 

Although it’s challenging, it’s worth it. 

Leaders who give of themselves will get it all back because they experience an opportunity to touch others in a very personal and positive manner. 

It feels gratifying to reach others: to guide them, to help them.

You can’t be a leader if no one will follow, and in this time of “the great resignation” employees are no longer willing to follow leaders or work for companies that they don’t believe in.

The world has changed and if leaders don’t adapt to meet the new demands, they will soon “sink like a stone.”

As I mentioned, the world is changing, and we have no control over its dynamics. 

Just like seasons. 

Seasons have a way of changing, whether we want them or not. 

With each new season, different behaviors are required.

Today when I sit down to write down this article, I keep thinking about the times when circumstances beyond our control have created a season of change.

On 9/11, we saw one of the world's most globally competitive, fast-moving cities experience an unexpected season shift. This one incident not only changed every New Yorker forever but also changed people all over the world.

Those who believed that markets and trading were everything and were busy investing the day before in the market, found themselves handing water to others, helping the displaced workers, putting money toward efforts to help victims, providing food and clothing, and so much more.

The world and people have experienced and adopted the major change.

Similarly, yet another change, the entire world has experienced is COVID-19. Although COVID-19 and terrorist attacks cannot be compared, both have caused a sudden and unexpected season change in business.

It’s also a good reminder that what matters are people, our health, and our ability to be with friends, family, and colleagues. 

We believed in a thing that we all will pass through this phase. We all will pull together.

As we are talking about business in particular, as a business leader you must

  • Show up as a leader in your company and community. 
  • Pick a direction and start leading others through the fog. 
  • Help calm fears. 
  • Slow down. 
  • Check on people. 
  • Offer even small kindnesses that give us that human connection. 
  • Bring water to someone who seems stressed. 
  • Talk to those around you. 
  • Tell a joke or ask about family members.
  • Take a walk for your work discussions instead of sitting behind a desk.
  • Breathe. Be thankful. Be helpful.
  • Let go of financial worries. The situation is what it is.
  • Focus on the people.

It’s just a great time to pull together and a great time to lead from whatever seat you happen to sit in. 

People need leadership, so don’t wait for someone else to do it. Everyone can help lead through this season of change.

Over the last several years, I worked on Executive coaching with middle and senior-level management executives.

I have had several discussions on Leadership" with various people – leaders, professors, coaches, and trainers.

 I have realized through those dialogues that Leadership is not a skill that can be imparted to someone in a classroom. And yet, almost all big and mid-sized organizations run programs aimed at improving leadership skills in their employees.

No doubt that these programs provide the participant with useful aspects of leadership. But, does it help them become better leaders?

I don’t mean to say that leadership can’t be honed. 

It can be. 

But I certainly mean to say that you can’t create leaders with a focus on skills alone.

The old model of leadership is obsolete. Earlier, leaders were people with fancy titles and positions. People with authority and recognition were looked up to as leaders. But with shifting times and all new ways of thinking, the nature and definition of leadership are changing every day.

It won’t be justified to give leadership any particular visual or shape. True leaders are like water. It takes the shape of the vessel it is poured into without losing its inherent nature. Similarly, having a strong yet open mindset is the basic requirement for strong leadership.

Every game has its rules. To come on top of the game, you need to become well-versed with those rules. 

The same is true for Leadership.

Don’t expect the world to look at you as a leader unless you feel the same for yourself. 

The biggest asset of a leader is self-reliance, and if you doubt your capabilities then leadership is not the game for you. 

No matter how skillful you are, if you doubt your power as a leader, you are giving power to your doubt.

The strongest factor that determines success is self-esteem. 

To start your leadership journey inculcate these traits in your personality along with self-assurance -

  • Confidence
  • Clear thought process
  • Gratitude
  • Team building skills

In addition to these traits, let me also share a few unpleasant realities that you may have to deal with and accept, willingly or unwillingly.

As a Leader, you have to accept that:

  1. You cannot be always right, or best.
  2. Your best employees will leave you during your critical situation
  3. Doing the right thing would not be easy
  4. Leadership is a thankless job
  5. Leadership is not the game for faint-hearted

Becoming a leader is not an overnight process because it's predicated on relevancy. 

To be consistently relevant, you have to always be evolving. 

Even people in the highest leadership positions need to go through a journey of continual growth, and these qualities cannot be performed superficially.

The fundamental ingredient to finding the leader within you is mindset.

Mindsets are leaders’ mental lenses that dictate what information they take in and use to make sense of and navigate the situations they encounter.

In today’s disruptive environment, the mindset of leaders must evolve and change. 

Many leaders struggle when they enter a new stage or into new responsibilities in their careers. 

Often leaders are unaware that they are holding onto to a mindset that doesn’t serve them in the new realities of business and is preventing them from making important and necessary changes.

A leader’s mindset has a powerful impact on career paths and how far an individual will move up the corporate ladder.

Mindset change can be very elusive. Leaders may do all the right things: commit to new experiences outside their comfort zone; lead others without relying on their specialized expertise, and find new role models and peer groups that support a new leadership mindset. However, if leaders fail to reflect on these experiences and create a new story about who they are as leaders, their mindsets likely will remain unchanged.

With the rapid pace of societal change, helping leaders shift their mindset is more critical than ever. Organizations that can harness the power of mindset change to help leaders better meet the challenges of accelerating business disruption and global change will win the race to succeed.

Leaders who expand and adapt their mindsets to better meet the responsibilities and challenges facing their organizations will be far more effective than leaders who rely on tried-and-true approaches to managing change and ambiguity.

 In simple words, mindsets drive what leaders do and why they do.

Mindsets are mental maps that reflect and guide how people behave in organizations. They signal how people operate and what they are about.

If organizations want their investment in leadership development to fully pay off, they must prioritize mindset development — specifically by targeting growth, learning, deliberative, and promotion mindsets.

Category : Leadership


Written by Nitin Mistry