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This article is part of our women’s leadership series on creating leadership identity, based on principles from Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office, by Lois Frankel, Ph.D.  Be sure to refer back to the previous article of this series, on how your responses to workplace situations and people shape your leadership identity.

With the building blocks of your leadership identity, you have learned how to market, act, look, respond and sound like a leader. You have learned how to play the game of business. Now it’s time to complete the puzzle with this last building block — you must THINK like a leader.

Since starting Impact Instruction, I’m often asked about the lessons I’ve learned, not just in being an entrepreneur but also in becoming a better leader.

A big lesson I’ve learned is the power of how I think.  Mindsetaffects every decision I make, from company strategy, to my leadership style, to team building and culture.  Mindset is what creates an environment where I (and my team) can grow and succeed.

This same lesson applies to you on your leadership path.  Your mindset will put into motion the actions that create your ultimate success.  To smooth the path, your beliefs about what will help you succeed at that next level may need a little fine tuning.

Here are 3 big mindset shifts to make on your leadership path:

  1. Be the conductor of the orchestra.  If you’ve ever watched an orchestra, it’s the conductor who is responsible for making sure the individual instrument sections come together and perform.  The conductor doesn’t play an instrument – it’s his or her job to make sure each musician has the needed direction to perform the part, so the end result is a beautiful musical number.  What would happen if the conductor sat down in a section and picked up an instrument to play?  There would be no one watching the big picture or directing the entire group. The overall musical number would fall apart.

When I became a leader I became that conductor, and I had to approach business with a whole new perspective.  I was no longer responsible for my individual part, my sheet of music.  I needed to operate with the big picture in mind, the musical number.  My role became to create a team of people who had the right skills and could work well together.  I had to provide the tools, direction, and support, and then allow them to play their individual parts.

  1. Time is your most valuable currency.  We all have the same 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week.  Our leadership path is determined by how that time is invested.   I used to have a mindset that would lead to comments like, “Well, it’s just my time, at least it’s not costing me money.”   Or, “I don’t have the time to find the right resource/team member/fill in the blank to get this done. It’ll be faster to just do it myself.”

What those comments really meant was that I didn’t treat time as the valuable currency that it is.  I needed to view time in a new way, so I could make better decisions about reaching company goals.Think about how you’re investing your time.  Know that there will always be tasks and projects vying for your attention.  The most effective leaders are able to discern where their time is best spent. Then, they find ways to delegate, automate, or remove those tasks that aren’t creating a high-performing team or the best results.

  1. Pay attention to the forest and the trees. I’ve heard the saying many times that the best leaders are strategic, and they leave the tactics up to someone else. But if you look at any given situation, its success or failure most likely came down to both.  You can’t have one without the other.  A good strategy without any tactical execution is a pipe dream.  A set of tactics with no direction is like watching a hamster wheel – it goes in circles forever, but never gets anywhere.

It’s about strategic thinking, vision and communication. If you have leadership aspirations, big picture strategic thinking is important. You have to be able to envision and articulate the direction of your organization or department.  Without that skill, you can’t direct or motivate your team.  You can’t be sure you’ve hired people with the right skills or fit.  You can’t be the conductor of the orchestra.

It’s also about balance, proper delegation and trust. Don’t underestimate the value of being able to grasp tactics well.  It helps you to see where potential pitfalls might be, or where you might need to course correct to achieve the big picture.  You don’t need to know every detail – that’s what your team is for.  They should have the skills to execute the tactics, and communicate with you on their progress in achieving a goal.

I’ve found the best way to blend the forest and the trees — the strategic with the tactical — is by asking questions.  Ask your team what steps they follow, what’s involved in completing the tasks that are part of your overall strategy.  Ask them where potential challenges are, or if they have ideas on how to get to the end result in a better way.  It builds better relationships and helps you achieve your strategic goals.

You not only have the power to think like a leader, you ARE a leader. Continue your leadership journey with these mindset shifts and you will undoubtedly enjoy the road ahead.

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