How Does Mindset Affect Your Leadership?

How does mindset affect leadership? And is it possible to develop a better mindset, if the one we have isn’t quite serving us?

I was curious, so I sat down with Predictable Success founder Les McKeown to ask him!

Q) In your book, DO/LEAD, you have an entire chapter on the “mindset” required for successful leadership, and it’s something anyone can embrace – regardless of his or her current title, role or job experience. Can you tell me and our audience what “mindset” means to you, broadly?

A) You’re quite right! As a word, it is sort of undermined a lot by being used in very vague senses. One of the main reasons I wrote DO/LEAD was to bring as much clarity and focus to words and phrases and concepts that every one of us has a different perspective on. There’s nothing wrong with that, but what happens is — if we don’t have a shared vocabulary — is that when the topic of leadership comes up, if I’m thinking one thing and you’re thinking a different thing, we end up with mixed results.

So when I talk about mindset, I am really asking “what do you think leadership has to do with you?”

Remember, our definition of leadership is any act that gets two or more people closer to their common goals. Why two or more people? If you’re just acting alone and getting closer to your own goal, there’s no need to work with or corral other people. You just get on with it! If you’re in any sort of group environment, leadership is required to get you closer to your common goals.

I want to stress, too, that nowhere in this definition does it mean that you have to have a title that conveys leadership, like a Vice President, Manager, Director, Pastor, etc. Anyone can conduct what I call a not-so-random act of leadership. And it also doesn’t have to be a permanent state. A specific act that — once again — gets two or more people closer to their common goals, can be an example of leadership, even if it is a one-time thing!

Finally, when it comes to leadership, it’s goal-oriented, not people-oriented. If you do an act that makes people feel happier or more motivated, that’s great…but it’s not moving you toward those common goals.

To be a leader, and to have a leadership mindset, you must be aligned with your group; you must understand what the goals are so that the acts that you take get you closer to them.

Q)When you talked about alignment, that was an aha moment for me because you don’t necessarily, at least the way I read it, have to ask permission for some of those act or those acts of leadership if you understand what you and or/the group is trying to achieve. Is that fair to say?

The answer depends a bit on the group of people you’re with. First: is there an existing working relationship, with a rhythm and cadence that has already been established? And second: does the culture allow for an “ask forgiveness instead of permission” mentality?

Not all organizations encourage folks to show initiative in terms of experimenting with not-so-random acts of leadership. If you want to start taking a bolder approach and you don’t think you’re in a culture where it’s tolerated…you may need to consider whether this is the long-time organization for you. Poor culture doesn’t want people to color outside — or sometimes even inside — the lines without specific permission first. It’s easy for me to say, of course, and I realize that there are implications for leaving. But it’s difficult to change an organization’s culture for within.

Now, in terms of these acts of leadership, even if you do not have to ask for explicit permission to experiment, you still want to be smart about your approach. If you know what the common goal is, don’t just choose something random or even weird to act on, if it doesn’t drive the team closer to that goal. If you’re not sure what the goal is, ask! That in and of itself is an act of leadership, and then it’s much less likely that your acts will be out of alignment.

If you can, too, start taking action within the zone of your existing expertise and/or genius.

Q) This concept of zone of genius, which I love, or your zone of of excellence — one of the things that I think would be helpful for readers who are like, “Les, that sounds great, but I’m still, I’m still getting started. I don’t have the confidence yet to know what my genius is!” is to understand how their Predictable Success leadership style or styles mix connects to getting closer to an answer. If you know, for example, that you are a Visionary or an Operator or a Processor, or you are a Synergist, I think there is value in saying, I don’t necessarily know the thing that I can do, but I know the way that I can approach a project.

A) One of the interestingly counterintuitive things is this: of the four styles, the two that get the most noticed are the Visionary and Synergist styles. Visionary, because they’re coming up with big ideas. They’re risk-takers. They can sometimes be quite good communicators. You notice a visionary, and you see them Synergists because they’re all about people. They want to make sure that everybody’s comfortable and happy. Synergists get into your field of vision a lot while Operators and Processors are just getting all of it in their respective ways.

Interestingly, Operators and Processors can commit not-so-random acts of leadership and be seen and valued in a shorter time frame and more easily than Visionaries or Synergists. An operator is just getting a thing done. That’s what operators are like. They’ll just go make it happen. Processors, grind the details; they produce the underlying systems and processes to help us get things done.

Visionaries and Synergists who want to “lead from anywhere,” to use our phrase — well, working from the basis of their style can sometimes mean if they’re not careful that their initial moves towards making not-so-random acts of leadership can seem more amorphous, less immediately beneficial.

I want to note — if you aren’t familiar with anything about what we’re talking about, Visionary, Operator, Processor, Synergist, or you have a vague notion but you can’t quite relate it to where it fits for you, go along to It’s a self-assessment that will take you seven or eight minutes and it will spit out what your VOPS, as we call it, Visionary-Operator-Processor-Synergist mix is.

Q) What inspired you to write DO/LEAD?

My goal in writing DO/LEAD was prompted by the number of clients who are senior leaders in organizations who said to me over and over again, we love and have adopted your definition of leadership here. How do we push that out to everyone in the organization?

And so that’s who I wrote the book for. The book is for people who want to be involved in helping people get closer to their common goals, whether or not they have a leadership title, who want to develop their career and discover what they’re great at.

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