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Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #119: How to Transform Your Leadership Mindset

January 14, 2021
Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #119: How to Transform Your Leadership Mindset

Do you have the mindset of a leader, or are you trapped in the mindset of an individual contributor? Today, Chris and Perry discuss five gaps that leaders must bridge in order to transform their mindset from individual contributor to leader.

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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. I am Perry Holley, a John Maxwell facilitator and coach.

Chris Goede:     And I’m Chris Goede, vice-president with the John Maxwell Company. Welcome and thank you for joining us once again. As a reminder, if you want to learn more about the five levels of leadership, which is the model, the methodology that we help organizations enhance, change, develop their culture, their leaders, or maybe even our 360 content … Both of those are foundation to everything that Perry and I talk about … Don’t hesitate to visit You can also leave us a question, leave us a comment. You can download a learner guide that Perry has developed for us. Please take just a moment and visit that if that’s the case.

Well, today’s topic, we’re going to continue our … What we’ve been talking really about is a leadership mindset. We want to continue the conversation today by looking at what you can do to really transform that mindset so you can increase your effectiveness. We want these sessions to be something that are very applicable, something that you can really begin to look at and grow as a leader. And so today’s topic and building off of what we’re working on is how to transform your leadership mindset.

Now, Perry, this topic brings a smile to my face because transformation is a big word to our enterprise and to our founder and things that we’re working on not only domestically, but around the world. And so how to transform your leadership mindset. Talk to us a little bit about that.

Perry Holley:    Well, what I hear on a lot of the coaching work we do, and it makes me wonder if the people I’m speaking with have fully embraced that they’re a leader, they kind of question in their mind or they have some … I was actually thinking that you were talking to the imposter syndrome. I happened to have read a little bit about that lately, and do you really embrace the you’re the leader, that people are looking to you? Do you want to be the leader? Are you embracing that leader? And I just find that there’s a gap between how effective someone is and how they see themselves. I actually identified five gaps. I’m sure there’s many more. I was going to ask you that.

Chris Goede:     Wait a minute.

Perry Holley:    Yeah. How many gaps do you think I found, Chris?

Chris Goede:     You used the number again-

Perry Holley:    I did.

Chris Goede:     … and it’s the number five. Perry, you are definitely a Maxwellian. You definitely are under the tutelage of John Maxwell’s writing.

Perry Holley:    I was going to spring that on you, but anyway.

Chris Goede:     You got so excited to tell me that, you just jumped and did it.

Perry Holley:    Well, this lesson has meant so much to me too personally, but I think they’re definitely more than five, but these are the gaps I think that can increase your effectiveness as a leader if you’re able to bridge them, and it’ll increase your leadership mindset and leadership effectiveness. But maybe before we go there, just because we’re following up from our last conversation, maybe you just remind folks what we mean when we think leadership mindset.

Chris Goede:     Yeah. I want you to think about it as the lens through which you see things as your leader, right? And in our last session, we talked about that. How do you begin to change that mindset? What is the lens that you see as an individual contributor versus now becoming a team leader? And this lens that we’re talking about is made up of your attitudes, your beliefs, perceptions, the ideas about what a leader is and how it operates, your communication, how effectively you’re able to communicate. We talk about the fact that communication, beliefs and behaviors will drive the results that you’re looking for in your culture and as a leader.

And so those are the things, those attributes that we just talked about and the lens through which you see those things, really help drive your mindset. And there’s a big difference between being an individual contributor and being the leader. Remember, let me just kind of back up. Leadership is influence. We want you growing your influence no matter where you’re at in the organization, because you don’t have to have a title or position to have a leadership mindset.

Perry Holley:    Yeah. That’s important, that last part you said about that our definition of leadership is really about developing your level of influence with those that you lead, with those that are your peers, with those that are your superiors, your boss, that leadership is about this influence all around you.

The mindset piece is so important. What I’ve found is that if you have the mindset of an individual contributor, then the lens through which you’re going to see things is that of an individual contributor. You can transform your mindset to that of a leader. You’ll see things differently. You’ll act differently. You’ll increase your influence, whether you have a title or not. And I think that’s pretty important. It’s not about the title leader necessarily. No matter where you are in the organization, if you began to have that mindset of a leader, you will see things differently.

I hate to even go in a discussion on mindset without mentioning the Carol Dweck and the studies that everybody references about just having a fixed mindset or a growth mindset that I believe I can grow and I can improve. That fixed mindset means that we see things that my skills and abilities are fixed, I can’t really get any better. If I see myself as a team member, I’m unable to grow those skills. We embrace the idea that you have a growth mindset, and that means that you can think and grow and learn and improve and you can see yourself as a leader and have the potential to improve as a leader.

Let me get to the five gaps, because I really wanted to present these and get you your insights on those. The first one I’ve found and I’ve been with a lot of people in coaching calls lately … this comes up a lot … gap, number one is, are you working in the business or are you working on the business? Of course, this comes from Michael Gerber and the E-Myth, but I love this question because I found it so easy as a leader sometimes to find yourself two heads down. What do you think?

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Chris Goede:     Yeah. As I just put my head down and shook my head as you were talking about this, right? I think, Perry, this is a principle that you could have just to make sure you had your five points. You could have put five points underneath this principle and we could really talk about it because so many leaders get caught in this … we’ll call it this gap, we’ll call it a trap, whatever it might be, you could use either one … of working in it. And I think, man, some of the greatest leaders step away and step back and think about, “How do I work on the business?”

And so as we think through that gap, here’s a couple of … just a comparison, right? Things that I think about when it comes to an individual contributor versus a leader. Individual contributor keeps your head down, you’re doing the job, right, tasks, you’re just working in it. Every single day, you’re working in it, versus, as a leader, you got to back off. You got to take some time. You got to be thinking about the big picture. You got to see further than those that are the individual contributors.

And one sign of someone that has not embraced this mindset is just when they continually want to throw themselves into the work every day. I shared with our listeners on a previous session where I was like, “Man, I’m guilty of this, right? I come in, I want to make the list of stuff and I want to start marking them off.” How many of you out there have this yellow pad of paper? Okay. It’s not always yellow. Maybe it’s white. We do give John a hard time. I think he still works off of a yellow pad of paper and a multi-colored pen.

But man, I’m good at this. I want to do this. I want to cross that off, but that’s not going to work, right? It’s going to create … I love you’re thinking about a gap. It’s going to create a bigger gap in where the team wants to go. You got to step back. You got to look at the bigger picture. Here, to bridge that gap … some of the things I just want to share with you … just make sure that you know the direction that you and the team are going. And I think if you continually keep that out in front of you, it’ll help maybe lift your head up once in a while and to think on the business.

The other thing is ensure you have the processes and systems to get you there. You’re going to have to develop more effective and efficient systems and processes to be able to step back and not have your hands in it every day. And then final one that bridges gaps, ensure you and the team are clear on what needs to be done. If you don’t clearly communicate what needs to be done and you haven’t taken the time to develop and make sure that they’re developed and trained properly, you’re going to get so frustrated, the gap’s going to get bigger because you’re going to jump back in to the business.

Perry Holley:    Yeah. I was just doing the 360 assessment with a leader two weeks ago and it really came up that he was focused so much on doing the day-to-day. I said, “Well, who’s setting the goal? Who’s setting the standards? Who’s setting the expectations and who’s holding people accountable?” He goes, “I don’t have time for that.” I go, “Okay. You have a leadership mindset problem here. You’re the leader. You need to do this.”

All right. Gap number two that I thought was interesting just from my experience was I had just called it moving from being the genius to being the genius maker. And this, of course, we’ve talked about this before on a previous podcast, but Liz Wiseman from her work on multipliers, but I found that it’s easy when you get a title of a leader especially that you need to be the smartest person in the room. People expect you to be the smartest person in the room. Aren’t you supposed to have the answers? You’re the leader. As an individual contributor, you’re usually a specialist of some sort and you’re generally proving that you have the answers and that’s part of that mindset. But a leader, I mean, you’ve got to think about developing others and getting the best out of everybody’s thinking into the mix, not just your own. What are your thoughts on going from genius to genius maker?

Chris Goede:     Yeah. And I’ve heard it said also, right, the addition versus multiplication. Liz talks about it and teaches that you can either multiply the capabilities of your team or diminish them, right? And when I say diminishing, that brings you back to the addition part. And it’s just all in how you see yourself, back to this mindset. You see yourself and it’s the stories that you tell yourself as well as your team.

And so to bridge this gap, use your leadership mindset to resist always stepping up. I think you put this in here specifically for me talk about, so that others … and you talk about this, and listeners, I wish you could see Perry right now, because he is , but you talk a lot about this, Perry, when you talk about, “Hey, step back,” right? Step up versus step back. And it’s a great principle think about right here so that you can help develop and grow your team and those capabilities. And so you have to be thinking about that because an individual contributor’s stepping up at every opportunity and but more importantly, right, it’s not going to be that multiplication thing that Liz talks about when it comes to capabilities of your team.

Perry Holley:    That whole idea of asking other people what their point-of-view is before you share yours. That just gets other people’s thinking on the table.

All right. Gap number three. I went through this one. moving from my personal productivity to focusing on the team productivity. And I believe this absolutely requires a leadership mindset to move your focus just from being on you and what you produce to how you leverage your way to get production through a team and making the whole team productive. How do you see that?

Chris Goede:     Yeah, this is right out of John’s level three influence in the five levels of leadership. And as you grow your influence, as you grow through your leadership, this is so key. And we talk about listen, level two is foundational, right? That is where we talk about connecting with your team, people following you because they want to. The level three and this production level, this is really where your credibility is built as a leader. And your credibility is built at this level not only of how productive you are, it’s how you’re leveraging what you have been able to do, what you’ve learned through other team members.

And the only way to do that is palms up, right, like, “Hey, here’s how you do this. Here’s how I want you to do this. Here’s an opportunity I want you to run with. Hey, what do you think about this opportunity? Go create this.” You’ve got to have that type of mindset. And there are so many leaders that just squeeze that so tight and they hold on to everything that they don’t want to be with the open palms. And it’s a great segue. Again, we’ve talked about. This is a great segue going to level four, but while you’re doing that, you’re producing in and through your team. And so I think that is so key when you get there.

Now, to bridge this gap, the leader, to ensure that the team is equipped to be able to do this, they have to have clear direction. We’ve got to look for and remove obstacles. Make sure that as a leader, you’re not just going open palms and you’re out producing a little bit less than you were before and you’re saying, “Hey, go figure this out.” You got to make sure that they’re equipped. You got to make sure that they know where they’re going. You got to make sure that you’re there to move any obstacles out of the way, solve any problems so that they can produce.

Perry Holley:    We often ask that question in the five levels workshop when we’re talking level three is, “What do you leverage from your productivity, from what got you here? What is it you can teach others how to make them more productive?” And it’s a lot of people looking at their shoes when we ask that question. You need to be thinking about, you were productive, but how do you get others to do that?

Gap four, almost flowing in the same direction here on that previous one, but moving from focused on my results alone to focusing on team results. And I realize this might seem really obvious that team results are what’s really most important, but I’m finding leaders without a strong leadership mindset can really become too focused on their own results. And that’s really the hallmark of an individual contributor mindset is just, “It’s about me and my results.”

I know you’re a sales leader and you’ve got sales team and they all have goals. But if something happened and you made the number but some of the team didn’t … I saw this quite a bit in my early sales years, the leader bragging about making their number, but some people in the team not. How do you change your mindset to really expand it to the team results?Chris Goede:     Well, a couple of things that I do personally, and to kind of have this mindset is, it is about the team first, right? I think if you’re going to be in the leadership game, you’re in the people business, it’s about the team.

To your point, there are organizations that I have the privilege of partnering with and helping them in the leadership culture and developing leaders and setting up systems and processes. But what I make sure is that in our weekly meetings is I really lift up the wins of the team, not the wins of the leader. I want to stay involved from a production standpoint so that I’m relevant, I know what’s going on in corporate setting when it comes to leadership in regards to our skillset. But in order for the team to continue to want to drive results, I’ve got to focus on their wins and I’ve got to celebrate their wins, not necessarily mine as leader.

It’s my responsibility. Guess what? When we took the opportunity to get promoted and maybe it came with a little bit of a bump in our pay, that’s what you’re getting paid for. Now you got to do both, right? You got to be able to continue to produce, but just don’t talk about it, right? Don’t lift it up as much as you are the team because we want to celebrate the team.

A couple of things that I do is that we do, right, have individual goals and KPIs, but it is all focused back towards the team goal. Everybody is contributing to the team goal, and sometimes the wave is carried by different team members, but we’re still celebrating the fact that our team is achieving results or we’re working on it as a team because we’re not achieving our results. Even somebody maybe having a record year connecting with organizations, that doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re not going to let them focus on what’s going wrong with the rest of the team. And so it’s just a collaborative team result-driven kind of mindset and communication that you need to have.

Now, one of the things though that I found critical in doing this is making sure that you have a system in place for regular accountability with the team and followup and follow through. And one of the things that I’ve seen work really well is what we call peer-to-peer accountability, to where when you’re having your team meetings, you’re not getting in the weeds of all of the details and KPIs, but from a high level, everybody is aware of what everybody else is bringing to the table. And you would be surprised … maybe you wouldn’t. No matter what your KPI is, sometimes it’s revenue. Sometimes it’s cost, sometimes it’s systems, processes, whatever it might be, but when there’s a peer-to-peer accountability being discussed and your weekly meetings being obviously facilitated and led by the leader first, it’s an incredible way to drive team results and just collective accomplishments as a team.

Perry Holley:    Yeah. Well, I’m glad you added that about the accountability piece of it. I mean, you’re looking at bigger results. You’re holding everybody up to that standard. It just makes people better. And your team, you get exponential growth. You become that change agent that you need to be as a leader and gets away from that individual contributor mindset.

The fifth and final one that I’m bringing to the table today … I know there’s more, but can you move the gap the bridge is moving from having power to empowering others. And as an individual contributor, I can often be consumed with my status or how much power or influence I can get for myself. But when you transform that leadership mindset, you really look for ways to empower those on the team to do more and to be more. And I think this might be one of the bigger gaps sometimes, especially if you get a title of a leader that, “Now I’m the boss, I’ve got power.” Yeah. You’ve got the power to empower. And so what are your thoughts on that one?

Chris Goede:     Yeah. John’s, one of his latest books, The Leader’s Greatest Return, he’s not talking about a financial return, right? He’s talking about the return of team members, of people that you work with to work alongside you, becoming successful and winning because you’re empowering them to do so. And this is a huge mindset that you need to make sure, because I have no doubt that there are gaps out there in regard to this when it comes to being able to empower people.

So many of us, we don’t want to give away the opportunity for recognition if they accomplish something or power, or they don’t want to delegate authority out of fear of failure and all those things come in to this whole process. But without a doubt, it’s going to limit us and it’s going to limit our team. It’s going to limit them. You think about some of the greatest lessons that you’ve learned in your career, and I can promise you, it comes with basically building your wings on the way down and failing and learning and people empowering you to be able to do that. And I think that you’ve got to be able to have that mindset for other people.

As I wrap up, this is something that … This really of pains us as an enterprise. We see this around the world and I do think, Perry, this is probably a massive gap. We see a lid. We see a leadership lid in organizations and what they can accomplish, whatever their goal is, whatever their widget is, whatever their mission is because leaders understand that they can lead by a title, “Oh, I got to build relationships, connect with my people. Oh yeah, we got to produce,” and then there’s a lid right there above level three. I just gave you an illustration of level one, level two, level three in the five levels of leadership. But there’s a lid right there because leaders don’t understand that this is a massive gap in their leadership, and if they would close that gap and they would learn how to develop and to empower others on their team, that the things that they could accomplish as a team and as an organization would be out of this world.

My challenge to you is of the five gaps that Perry presented to us, like he said, there are others, if you were to list them out, which ones are you struggling with the most? It may not be number five, but I promise you that five probably needs to be on the list. And so listen, as John says, “My name is John. I’m your friend.” It’s just Perry and I are here with you in this car, on this walk, maybe in your office. We’re your friend. I promise you number five needs to be on that list. But the greatest return as a leader for you is to be able to empower and develop somebody and to see them succeed. I promise you that’s worth its weight in gold. And so make sure you begin thinking about that gap as well as any other gaps that you may have on that list.

Perry Holley:    Perfect. Well, thank you, Chris. And just a reminder, if you want to review these five, there is a learner guide at that’s associated with this. In every episode, there’s a learner guide. You can also learn more about the five levels of leadership if you care to, and we’d love to help you with that. You can leave a comment or a question for us there. Very grateful that you would spend these minutes with us. That’s all we have today from the John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast.

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