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Hear from leadership expert Margie Warrell on how to develop the three mindsets to help drive the future of work in your organization

Your leadership mindsets are a powerful tool, especially for shaping the future of work. The mindsets you practice today will cascade across the people you lead, setting them up to conquer what’s to come.

But which mindsets can best prepare us for the unknown future, and how can you actively cultivate them?

“The right leadership mindsets are what makes it possible to simultaneously run and change a business,” says Korn Ferry Senior Partner Margie Warrell, a global authority on leadership. “When others feel lost, leaders with these mindsets are prepared to embrace ambiguity and confidently lead their teams.”

Below, Margie shares the three leadership mindsets essential for the future of work and speaks on how you can cultivate them.

Mindset 1: Setting the Tone 

As a leader, you set the tone for your team. Are you intentionally being proactive and setting a positive tone, or are you reacting to how others behave and amplifying negative emotions? Put another way, leaders must be the thermostat, not the thermometer. A thermostat sets the temperature; a thermometer just reads it. Which are you?

Emotions drive behavior and they’re contagious. As much as we’d like to believe logic and rational thinking drive behavior, the truth is people react to the emotional tone of their environment. Consider the current business climate, which is characterized by rapid change and disruption. On one hand, there’s a sense of anxiety and foreboding. But on another, there’s incredible opportunity.

Leaders who act as a thermometer “read” that anxiety and foreboding and may amplify it. Leaders who act as the thermostat are tapped into the emotional landscape of their organization, but aren’t held hostage by it. They’re proactively setting a bold vision and galvanizing teams around a shared purpose. They foster an environment of positivity, excitement and potential.

Hear Margie speak on how leaders can inspire change by harnessing the power of their emotions and mastering the art of communication, empathy and perspective.

How do you recommend a leader act more like a thermostat than a thermometer?

Margie Warrell:

It’s important for leaders to consider who is it that I need to be right now in order to inspire the action and drive the change and to galvanize support and common purpose toward what we’re working toward. And so leaders need to start with themselves. What are the emotions that I need to be radiating? Emotions are contagious and we can set off emotional contagion for good or for worse. And so what are the emotions you want to be instilling in those around you? Because people act on emotion. Emotions drive behavior, not logic and rational thinking, not near as much as we’d like to think. And so how do you need to be showing up to do that? Are you clear in communicating a bold vision that does have a very compelling and clear why? Are you expanding the context for people? Not everyone sees from the same perspective as you do. So making sure people understand the bigger why behind what you want them to do. Because that can really help to dispel anxieties and to help people understand why they’re being asked to do things that they might like to do, that they don’t want to do, that is new for them. And thirdly, are you tapped into how people are feeling to the concerns, to the anxieties, particularly the unspoken ones? Before people care about what you have to say, They want to know how much you care about them. And leaders who can lead with both head and heart, who are ambidextrous in that they’re both self-aware and also situationally aware, are going to be able to tap into the hearts and minds of those in their teams and in their organizations.

Mindset 2: Embracing Learning 

When the pace of change outside of an organization exceeds the pace of change within, that organization is not going to be able to maintain a competitive edge. Scaling continuous learning across different functions is what brings back this edge; and leaders need to role model a learning mindset.

It’s about becoming an organization of learn-it-alls, not know-it-alls; individuals need to be excited to uncover new ways of doing things. Critically, they prioritize curiosity over cleverness. This means rather than trying to solve everything themselves based on existing knowledge, they remain open to new possibilities, inviting others to the table with them.

Agile individuals create an agile enterprise. Our research finds that companies with highly agile executives have a 25% higher profit margin than their peers. Individuals with high learning agility are promoted twice as fast as their peers. When leaders embrace learning agility, they set the stage for all people in the organization to embrace it, unleashing their true potential.

Hear Margie speak on how leaders can gain a competitive edge by championing a learning mindset, humility and curiosity, to pave the way for faster innovation across organizations.

Margie Warrell:

In a sense, the speed with which an organization can learn and scale that learning across various different functions and businesses is going to give competitive edge. So leaders need to be role modeling a learning mindset. They need to be role modeling the humility and the curiosity that they want to instill in their ranks. When Satya Nadella came into Microsoft, he said, we need to be an organization of learn-it-alls and not know it alls. There was a lot of expertise at Microsoft and yet he saw that what Microsoft could do was stymied by the speed with which they were learning. When you’ve got too many people who are very attached to what they think they know, it keeps people from learning what they need to know to thrive and flourish and innovate for the future.

Leaders need to trade cleverness for curiosity. We need to ask more questions and have fewer answers. And we need to create a space for other people to challenge our best thinking, to create what I would call learner safety, to make it safe for other people to learn at faster speeds.

So leaders need to be role modeling that curiosity and that humility. They need to be inviting others to challenge their thinking. And we need to be sharing our own learning journey. If I only ever share with you everything that I absolutely nailed, every skill when I got to the top of the learning curve, then other people are going to go, well, I don’t want to have to go through the awkwardness and those phases of conscious incompetence that are part of the process to gaining unconscious competence. And so for leaders, share what you’re learning, share your missteps.

And when you can… destigmatize failure when you can have people reframe it as iteration and then scale that across the organization you’re going to be not only speeding up the learning cycles you’re going to be shortening you’re not you’re not only going to be speeding up the pace of learning you’re going to be shortening those learning cycles and with that you can really build competitive edge and today more than ever the speed with which an organization can learn is going to be prepared proportional to the speed with which it can compete and innovate and do things smarter, better and solve their customers’ needs in more innovative ways than their competitors.

Mindset 3: Practicing Self-Certainty 

Self-certainty is how certain we are about who we want to be, the values that define us, how we want to lead others and how we show up.

As you advance in your career, you’ll face increased pressure from all directions. Some leaders are easily knocked this way and that, depending on how the wind blows. This uncertain leadership can exacerbate internal confusion and chaos in periods of turmoil and change. In contrast, when you practice self-certainty, you are grounded in your core values, operating with a deep sense of integrity. Your team can trust you will show up consistently, instilling confidence and optimism through turbulent periods.

In today’s business climate, people do not follow leaders blindly. They need to see the true north of an embodying purpose—the “why” of the journey. Practicing self-certainty makes this possible. Operating from a place of grounded optimism helps people see that success is attainable, despite the enormity of the challenges that lie ahead.

Hear Margie speak on how leaders can unlock the power of effective leadership by shaping their impact on others and fostering positive change from the inside out.

Margie Warrell:

For you, as you think about, well, these are the challenges I have, these are the goals that I’m working toward, these are the problems, and maybe the problem people I have to navigate.

Who is it that I need to be right now? Put your to-be list ahead of your to-do list. And think about, you know, how do you want to make people feel? We’ve all heard the quote by Maya Angelou that people won’t always remember what you said or what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.

And it’s important to remember that leadership is a series of moments. And in any moment, who we need to be may shift. Sometimes we need to be really directive and really clear on this is what people need to be focused on. In other moments, we may need to tip the balance more to really tapping into the hearts and the emotional landscape of people so that they’re feeling fully seen and fully heard. In other moments, we may need to be incredible visionaries of the future. And other times we need to like really get down into the detail. But when we are clear about who we want to be and we’re operating from that place of self-certainty, it enables us to be more agile in how we show up to draw on a broader repertoire of behaviors. And ultimately, to role model the mindset we want to instill, and to be the leader that others need us to be in that moment.

You know, leadership is a series of moments and our internal conversations can magnify or sabotage our leadership moments. So we have to start within ourselves. How we lead ourselves is going to impact how we lead others. All leadership, all positive change extends from the inside out.

Cultivate Your Leadership Mindset 

Mindsets don’t develop overnight—they’re part of the long and sometimes uncomfortable process of learning Enterprise Leadership.

The article was first published here.

Photo by Alexander Mils on Unsplash.

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