Don’t talk about it, be about it

“It’s like a finger pointing to the moon. Don’t focus your eyes on the finger or you will all of the heavenly glory.” In this episode, I share my thoughts on mentally labeling yourself as a leader and following through with actions that match that label. By creating a mental image of who you want to be, it will become easier for that image to manifest itself in reality.

Motivate yourself to change your behavior by defining yourself and your purpose. At first glance, you may be thinking “fake it until you make it.” I’m not talking about that (although that can work in certain situations). I’m talking about defining yourself through an empowering title and acting accordingly. You’ll notice in the next examples that I’m asking you to first identify by the title and then follow through with actions that match that title. You’ll start to notice that you carry yourself a little differently just by telling yourself you are the title. A similar effect happens when you get dressed up: you stand a bit taller, maybe have a more confident stride, and flip your hair because you know it’s on point. Conversely, the same happens you dress down: you may slouch a little bit more in your chair, you may drag your feet when your walk (if you actually walk somewhere), and you don’t really care about your hair because it’s covered by a hoodie (my son does this every day). In this instance, alter your mindset by “wearing” a title and then act accordingly. Two examples follow.

Don’t get stuck thinking about weightlifting, get out there and compete as a weightlifter. Now, this example actually involves wearing something: a singlet. If you’re going to be a competitive weightlifter, the required uniform is a singlet. Get over yourself: Olympians have been wearing these forever and you aren’t special enough to defy that tradition. You also need to start talking in the official numeric language of the sport: metric. If you’re lucky enough to have kilogram plates to train with, modify your programming to be in metric weight. You’ll quickly start to recognize key numbers and stats you are working with and towards, and you can also communicate with other weightlifters easily. No one wants to do the conversion math from imperial/pounds. Real weightlifters speak in metric/kilos. Finally, you have to actually compete. Sign up for a local weightlifting event. Just like signing up for a marathon, you need to actually test yourself in the environment of the sport to call yourself that type of athlete. Feel the pressure of trying to go six for six. The pressure of warming up next to people who are clearly outlifting you. The pressure of thinking “Am I using enough chalk?” (the answer is probably yes). Don’t think about being a weightlifter, be a weightlifter.

Don’t get stuck thinking about leading, get out there and serve as a leader. As the old saying goes, “Actions speak louder than words.” Leaders are people of action and they work to serve the people under their charge. They make informed decisions, but do not necessarily wait for the perfect amount of information to make a decision. “Good enough” can often win the day. Speak confidently about the performance of your team and inspire them to perform beyond their expectations. Spend the time to lethally hone their projects to the point where you don’t even have to check in on them; you know they will be successful. You can’t do any of this behind your desk either. Leaders must be present in order to deliver the most impact. Leaders also work hard to not get paralyzed by the pressure of the moment but instead lean into the pressure because that is what leaders are responsible for: making decisions. Whether they are right or wrong decisions, time will tell, but you’re already failing as a leader if you aren’t doing what your teammates need you to do: to be a bold leader.

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