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Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #118: Developing a Leadership Mindset: From Team Member to Team Leader

January 7, 2021
Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #118: Developing a Leadership Mindset: From Team Member to Team Leader

What mindset do you possess? Do you have a leadership mindset or an individual contributor mindset? “But I am not a leader”, you say. Not true! Leadership is influence, and you can lead from anywhere in the organization. But, you need to possess the mindset of a leader to be effective. In today’s episode, Chris and Perry discuss how to develop a leadership mindset.

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Read the Transcript:

Perry Holley:    Welcome to the John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast, where our goal is to help you increase your reputation as a leader, increase your ability to influence others, and increase your ability to fully engage your team to deliver remarkable results. Hi, I’m Perry Holley, a John Maxwell facilitator and coach.

Chris Goede:     And I’m Chris Goede, vice president of the John Maxwell Company. Welcome and thank you for joining. Well, we wanted to let you know that we’re just being safe as we come back in 2021 and everybody took some time away from the office. We are back on Zoom, at least initially for the month of January. We’re just social distancing and making sure that everybody stays healthy around the John Maxwell Company. So we appreciate your patience with us through that process.

Hey, as we dive in, just like we’ve kind of always talked about as we start these things off, Perry does an incredible job. He creates a learning guide for you to follow along. Even if you want to learn more about a lot of the content that Perry and I talk about with five levels of leadership, the 360, which is really what everything’s based around those two. We’re doing virtual opportunities. We’re doing shortened sessions.

We were just kind of joking before we jumped on here about the length of virtual meetings, right? So maybe it’s not even a full day, half day. Maybe it’s two hour sessions. If there’s value to this content and some of the things that Perry and I talk about, that we can bring to your leadership team, man, let us know. Visit There’s a form there. We’d love to be able to serve you and your company and your team in that way.

Well, today, we’re going to talk a little bit about… And really, this month, the next couple of lessons in this series, we’re going to talk about mindset. Perry, from a title standpoint, once again, knocked it out of the park. So today’s topic is developing a leadership mindset from a team member to a team leader.

Perry, I’m going to love to hear a little bit about your thought behind creating this, but this is talked about so often in organizations that we work with from a coaching standpoint, from even just facilitation, because everybody’s goal is to eventually become in a leadership position. We define leadership as influence. We think everybody’s a leader. But you do have certain titles and certain responsibilities. And it’s so hard to change your mindset when you have become… You’re part of a team member and it’s peers. And then all of a sudden, you become the leader, and the shift there of that mindset and actions. So I’m excited to dive into this today, because I think a lot of our listeners have this thought or this question or this challenge in their leadership. Talk to me a little bit about what made you come up with this and kind of where we’re going today.

Perry Holley:    Yeah, the whole idea of a leadership mindset came up on a coaching call, and I hear kind of frequently that I was promoted from being a member of the team to being the boss of the team, so I’m leading my peers. We’ve talked about that generally in the past on some other podcasts.

One leader I’ve spoken to in the last 30 days in a coaching call hired someone from the outside to join his team. That person used to be his boss at a previous company. Let that sit in your mind a minute. You’re at your company, you hire your previous boss, but now he comes in as somebody that reports to you. That person, the previous boss who now reports to you, was having a problem relating to this person as a boss, as the leader. And I said, “Well…” The more I talked to the coachee, I realized that their mindset was really that of an individual contributor, not a leadership mindset that you need to have.

I think the bigger point, what I’d love to get your feedback on, is that this is… For the discussion today, leadership mindset applies whether you have the title or not. No matter where you are in the organization. I know we did a lot at the end of last year about 360 degree leadership leading up, down, and across. But no matter where you are, developing a leadership mindset is really going to be a difference maker in how your level of influence with others, whether you will have a title or not.

Chris Goede:     Yeah, and I want to go back to even just what we talked about as we kicked off today is how you view and define leadership. When you get the proper, what we feel like, kind of definition of that, of pure influence, I think you begin to grow with the mindset of influence, no matter what position you have.

Now, will it change a little bit? Yes, absolutely. If you go from being a team member to a team lead, it is going to change a little bit. However, if you go back to the basics of even the five levels in the model of how you influence people, the model of leadership, you should always be trying to grow your influence through that model, right? Going from level one to level two to level three. No matter if you have a position or not.

So when you get promoted, when you become the team lead, it’s really kind of, and I like this statement, how you view things will determine how you do things. I know you’ve said this before. What I want to encourage people is this mindset doesn’t need to shift. It doesn’t need to become immediately, “I’m the leader,” and you’re going to walk around kind of with that ruler, right? So I do want you though to begin to see yourself a little bit different, that internal common language, and view yourself as a team leader.

Right before I throw it to you, Mark Cole and I talk a lot about the fact that John has challenged him over the years in his mentoring of him of, “Listen, your mindset is going to affect how you do things. And you need to be thinking about as you move up the ranks of your leadership, you’re not going to make everybody happy and you’re not going to be this pal and this peer to peer. So you’re going to have to have a little bit of that shift.” I know he’s struggled with it. I’ve struggled with it. I’m sure… I’d love to hear a little bit about you struggling with that through your years of leading. I’m not saying you did, I’m just making an assumption. I might be wrong.

Perry Holley:    No, you know me pretty well. It’s funny. In the early years, I did not. I was thinking back as we were putting this together. Later in my leadership journey, I had more of a problem. In the early years, I did not have a problem was when I was first promoted… I started my career with IBM and I was a sales guy and I wanted to be a boss. I wanted to be the first line manager. I wanted to be a sales manager. Back in the day, the way that promotions happened at IBM was they would tell you you’re being promoted and then they would move you. People joked that IBM stood bribe and move, because they would move you to another city and put you in charge of a team in another city. So you walk in, you don’t know anybody, but you’ve now been said that you’re the boss, and you start acting like the boss.

It was kind of easy, because I was perceived to be the boss. I took on that. We would call it level one on the five levels leadership. It wasn’t until the later years when I became a third line. I made it through the second line executive and then became a sales executive at the same location where I had previously been a manager. That’s when I struggled to really adopt that mindset of leading at a higher level. I thought, “Man, it was so much easier when they just moved me and I had that level one boss,” until I figured out that that wasn’t leadership, that was just being bossy. I didn’t have any influence, I just had a title. If you want to develop the influence, you have to have this leadership mindset.

I was wondering, before we go much further, maybe we should define what we mean by leadership mindset. How do you even see that?

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Chris Goede:     Yeah, so let’s back up. Let’s just talk about mindset, right? I think in general, your mindset defines who you are. It’s how you see yourself. It’s stories that you tell yourself. It’s interesting, because even just having conversations with my adult children and beginning to think about some of the opportunities that are in front of them, to speak into those three areas, right? Kind of really, having the right mindset defines you, it’s how you see yourself, it’s the stories you tell. And they’re so powerful. The stories we tell ourselves are so powerful. What we’re telling ourselves internally, listen, leaders, it is coming out externally. What you are telling yourself internally, okay, is coming out externally. So it’s starting by you telling yourself, it’s becoming that mindset.

So when you see yourself as a leader, you see yourself as one that have increased your influence, it affects your motivations, your meaning, and your purpose. It affects your choices. It even affects kind of how you spend your time and energy. So I do want you, from a mindset standpoint, when we talk about this leadership mindset and this shift that you have to make, I do want you to not necessarily just see yourself as a member of the team. You do have to separate your stuff. You do have to think and act in a way that is a little bit different. And I think if you begin to have that mindset and that thought process, you’ll act in the proper way.

Perry Holley:    Yeah, and I think having a number of these conversations with people, and then also just reflecting on my own struggles was that a challenge we face… And I’ll tell you how I see this. I see a leader that’s struggling. When they’ve been promoted into a leadership titled position, they don’t really know how to lead, so they go back to do what they do know how to do, which is the day-to-day work. So if I was a salesman and I became a sales manager, I don’t really know how to be a sales manager, but I know how to be a salesman. So I become super salesman and I try to do everybody’s territory.

So I think the leap here is that when you say, “I’m going to embrace a leadership mindset,” as you make this move from being a specialist at what you do to becoming more of a generalist, where we have to pay attention to what everybody else does. I can’t just focus on me. I need to focus on the bigger picture on the team. That makes me move away from my specialty area. It doesn’t mean I can’t stay up to speed on being a salesman. I can help others be a better salesman. But I really have to be more of a generalist speaking, and then plugging into everybody’s role. I wonder, do you see that shift in thinking, or are there other shifts that you saw come into that mindset?

Chris Goede:     Yeah. I think when you said the me mentality, right? It brings me back to the even sports analogies growing up and all that stuff that it’s not me, it’s about we, right? And as you begin to lead this team, you begin to think about, “Okay, how do I develop other subject matter experts on my team?” They may not be at the level, or that you think they’re at the level that you are, right? That maybe you just don’t have enough awareness to acknowledge that. That’s a whole other session for us to talk about when it comes to self-awareness. But it’s you beginning to work with, work together to leverage the skillsets of the other subject matter experts that are on your team.

I tell leaders all the time, they’re on your team for a reason. Now, if you got promoted, right, we always say, “Hey, that is the team that you have or been given.” But over time, that’s on you, that your team is on you, right? That’s the team you deserve.

That is getting back to your point of how do I get away from feeling like as a leader, it’s all about me, what I can contribute. How do I begin to work more collaboratively? We also talk a lot about you need to be thinking further out than those that are on your team. And if you’re in the weeds every day, working and producing as an individual contributor, you are not taking time to be able to look out in the future.

It’s interesting, because I struggle with this. I was just sharing. We had an incredible state of the culture meeting to kick off the year with Mark Cole. We broke out into groups, and in our enterprise, we were talking about, “What’s your focus going into this next year?” And I shared with them. I said, “Look, I’ve got to get to a point to where I love to be in the deal. I love to be in the organizations. I love to consult. I love to be…” Right? But it’s not the best use of my time all the time for the organization. So how am I moving from that being… I love the word… The generalist, that you just talked about. How do I move from being so specific to backing up and just being a generalist and allowing to help my team? That’s probably more than you asked for, but it’s just fresh right on my mind.

Perry Holley:    No, let’s go with that a minute. Tell me, what did you do to help with that? You’ve been doing this a while, so this is… I mean, but I appreciate you saying this. Sometimes you still get pulled back into that, because-

Chris Goede:     No doubt.

Perry Holley:    … you love being that specialist. But you’ve been doing a great job in your leadership position now. But when you were first making that shift from being an individual contributor to having the leader mindset, anything that you did that you could share with our listeners that you did to help you make that shift, to make that leap?Chris Goede:     No. No, I’m just kidding. I’m still struggling. No, and I share with our listeners today, because you and I’ve been doing this a long time. Not these podcasts, but leading. This is why growth is one of our values here at the John Maxwell enterprise, because it’s something that we’re always doing. We’re always growing. We’ve always got to be learning. And I do find myself being pulled back into there.

But here’s what I did early on, and I’ve still got to get back to this, which is two thoughts. John said, “Hey, if somebody on the team can do what you’re doing 80% as good as you can initially, give it to them.” And he said, “Now, listen, don’t be surprised when they come back and they start asking questions, you begin to have a mentoring relationship that you become naturally have level four influence with them. All that’s positive.” He said, “Now, the negative side of that is don’t be surprised when they begin doing it better than you.” Right?

So I began thinking about, “Okay, yes, I love to do this. Yes, I want to be a part of this organization as we help change their culture and add value to their leaders. But you know what? Could Perry do that 80% as good as I can?” Absolutely, right? And then it begins a dialogue between Perry and I, that all of a sudden, when you get on the other side of that, and you know this to be true, it’s so much more fulfilling for me to see Perry run with that opportunity and grow that opportunity, and me just kind of, again, play the generalist, 30,000 foot view, and watch what’s going on.

So asking myself that question right there. That’s one of the takeaways from today. When you become a leader and you’re having a struggle going from individual contributor to actually leading the team, ask yourself that question. Evaluate everything you’re doing and ask yourself, “Does someone on the team do that 80% as good as you can?”

The other thing is I found myself as an individual contributor solving everybody’s problems. Now, I do think you should be the chief problem solver, right? I do think that you’ve got to move roadblocks, you’ve got to solve problems, all kind of stuff. But you also have to develop your team to be able to solve their problems.

By doing that is I was challenged early on by one of my team members who knows me really well. She said, “Hey, when you go into that situation, before you provide the answer, are you asking any questions? Are you saying, ‘Hey, how would you handle this? Now you can handle this next time.'” Right? So even living in the world that we live in, I still need to be challenged. I still need to have people speaking into that part of my leadership.

Again, I’ll wrap on this comment, I’ll wrap on this thought is if you stay in the weeds. If anybody has been a server at a restaurant growing up. I used to wait tables when I was younger. They’d say, “Hey…” When you get sat, right, and you’ve got three or four or five tables all at one time, they go, “Man, I’m in the weeds.” You’re so focused on what’s going on on those four or five tables, you have no idea what’s going on in the restaurant. So it’s the same thing as leadership. If I don’t get out of being that involved in that production and having more of a collaborative mindset, I’m going to miss the opportunity of where we can take our team.

Perry Holley:    Wow. I’m taking notes, because you hit a couple of three things that I’ll probably have to add to the lesson that’s going to come from this, is that you said about seeing someone else do it 80%. That requires… What I’ve noticed is some of the people I coach is that’s a security you have. I heard John Maxwell say this morning, “I’m pretty secure in who I am,” he said. He goes, “I don’t mind stepping out of the way until…” It takes a secure person. That also exhibits some humility was the second thing, because to ask what other people think. And then that teachableness, to actually hear what’s being said.

So those three extra things you’re talking about there reminds me when I started kind of… I heard somebody actually say this morning, put it in words, was for 2021, I want to raise my leadership lid. Wow. Okay, we all should be doing that. What is it going to take for me to do that? So the five levels of leadership. Is it working with a coach? Is it reading for a few minutes a day to expand my leadership competencies to do that?

What I did want to, as we work toward the end of this, I have a couple of questions that I thought maybe we could just put a spin on from a leadership mindset point of view was to help folks as they think about what is their mindset today. Is it one of an individual contributor or a team member, or do you actually see yourself as a leader and exhibit those leader qualities? Question number one, I’d love your feedback, was, I said, “How do you see your role? With a leadership mindset, how would you coach somebody to see their role?”

Chris Goede:     Again, this goes right back to… It’s a great segue and a question into what we were just talking about. I think leaders are and need to become master observers, right? Back to this 80% thing we were talking about. In order for you to do that, the first thing you have to do is sit back and observe the team and observe what’s going on. I think as leaders, we have to be master observers.

But then back to answer your question about the leader’s role. I think when you do that and you begin to help develop people and you begin to drive results through others on the team. We talk about at level three influence in the five levels, we talk about it’s all about production. It’s about your production, yes. You still need to stay involved in some part of it.

I heard you say this. This is an age old illustration about sales leaders, where they take the number one individual contributor and when there’s an opening for sales leadership, they move into sales leadership. And most of the time, that doesn’t work. But then not only does it not work from a leadership standpoint, they get in there and then they stop producing. They stop contributing.

So what I want you to hear Perry and I say is this is a mindset that you need to adjust. But we’re not saying that we don’t want you to stop producing completely. Your team has to see you rolling up your sleeves. They have to see you closing deals. They have to see you… Whatever your KPI is, they’ve got to see a little bit of that in you so that they know exactly kind of where we’re going as a team and what you expect of them.

But I think when you begin to develop people and drive results through your team members, it allows you to step back and really think about the goal setting, think about the strategy. How do you become more encouraging to what they’re doing? How do you connect with them? Remember, we talk about that everybody needs to be led a little bit differently, right? So you’ve got to begin thinking about people now more than production. And as an individual contributor, it’s like, “Hey, I’ve got to produce, I’ve got to produce.” Now you’ve got to begin stepping back and have a mindset shift in that role.

Perry Holley:    Right. Yeah, I totally agree. I guess a second question I would have with how you see the team, how you see people. I guess it’s if you have a titled role, if you’re the titled leader, how you see the people on the team. But even if you don’t have a titled role and you still want to adopt a leader mindset, how you see others is key. Any thoughts on that one?

Chris Goede:     For me, it’s I look at my team, as I see them, as really those that are fulfilling the mission and the vision of our organization. It is in and through them that we’re able to do what we do. Everybody on the team plays a particular role. And when I think about that, that is something, leaders, you need to communicate, which is how do you see them playing a important role in what we’re trying to accomplish?

The other thing is I see them as the opportunity for me to help solve problems. I talked about that a little bit earlier. You don’t need to get in the weeds in solving all of their problems. However, they have some roadblocks. They have some challenges that they have probably tried to move, they’ve tried to work around, that has caused lack of efficiency. So you have got to get in there. So you’ve got to see your people as a team, and you’ve got to see yourself as being able to serve them in a way to be able to solve problems that they’re facing.

And you’ve heard people talk about, “Hey, let’s flip the pyramid upside down and let’s serve them.” But I think if you really begin to flesh that out and you look at your people that way and you have that lens, that you will be able to produce as a team… Listen, the more you can help develop individuals grow and to produce, the more the team and the organization is going to produce. So you just have to have that belief and that mindset in your people.

Perry Holley:    Well, that’s quite a bit different from having an individual contributor mindset, which says that the rest of the team are just people that I’m either competing with or they have their own job to do. I’m not involved. I try to stay independent, not collaborative, as you said. That leader mindset says, “I can complete you, not compete with you.” I love that.

Another question that I think on a mindset shift was how do you see the mission? The vision of the team. I think this is probably easier from a leadership mindset is you really have to be able to see the bigger picture. But what are your thoughts on how that leader views mission?

Chris Goede:     For me, it goes back to just a minute ago, we were talking about the mission that I have is to make the individuals on our team as successful as possible. It’s my responsibility to be a steward of the resources that they were given, how they’re wired, what they value, what their learned behaviors are. But it’s also not only that, but then it’s also my mission is to be able to cast the vision for them of how what they are doing impacts the greater mission or vision of their organization. That is my responsibility. Because if they don’t have that, you and I talk a lot about team member engagement and the engagement levels, if they don’t know that and they can’t figure that out, then that’s going to be a problem. You’re not going to get that discretionary effort from them.

I also think that your mission is to be able to communicate to them in the way that they receive communication best. And also, receive their communication in its natural form without taking any offense. Because they’re just going to communicate to you the way that they only know how to communicate or are wired to communicate, and that needs to be okay. That needs to be that safe zone for you to be able to effectively lead them.

Perry Holley:    Yeah. Well, it’s quite a bit of difference between having that individual contributor mindset versus having a leader mindset when it comes to how you see your role, how you see your team, and how you see the mission of the team. It’s a much more effective way to raise that leader lid when you take that leadership mindset. Why don’t you wrap it up for us as we close today?

Chris Goede:     Yeah. Perry, I love that we started off with this and this thought process of the mindset, because so many of us, our goal is to continue to quote, unquote, “climb the corporate ladder,” right? To progress through our career. And you’re going to move at times from being a team member to a team leader. The first thing we want you to do is to shift that mindset.

So I want you to sit down and either if you’re on the verge of taking over a team or becoming a team lead, or maybe you just did, moving into the new year, and I want you to ask those questions that Perry kind of laid out for us. He went through them, he said, “Hey, how do you see your role?” Does it align with the conversation that Perry and I just had and some of the things that we’ve shared that we’ve seen through some of our coaching relationships or even our leadership experience?

Second question. How do you see your people on the team? What is your motive behind your leadership? And then question number three, how do you see your mission? What is it? How do you tie that to the team’s mission, to the bigger mission, and how are you serving your team?

So the application, the takeaway today is, “Hey, listen, here are these three questions.” Then I want to challenge yourself to sit down and authentically answer them about becoming a team leader and that mindset that you have versus being a team member.

Perry Holley:    Thank you. I agree that when you see yourself as a leader, you’ll start to be perceived by others as a leader, and you will raise your level of influence.

As a reminder, if you’d like to learn more about the leadership mindset through the five levels of leadership, we’re doing our 360 degree leader workshop. We’re doing those online and in person. You can learn more about that at You can also leave a comment for us there, or a question. We always love to hear from you. And we’re very grateful that you would spend these minutes with us today. That’s all today from the John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast.

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