I thoroughly enjoyed R. Michael Anderson‘s Leadership Mindset 2.0 book as so much of it resonated with my values and experience. Anderson combines personal practical experience as a leader along with studies in business, psychology and neuroscience. Below some thoughts from my own experience that validate concepts he presented.
My exploration here of how it all relates to me continues as a leader’s journey should always circle back to self-improvement. Before helping others, there is always value in grounding ourselves. I highly recommend RMA’s book and I’d love to hear how it resonates with your life experiences, challenges you have overcome and challenges you still face. Give Leadership Mindset 2.0 a listen and then let me know: CD@TalentWhisperers.com or Calendly.com/C_D/30.
The Leadership Mindset of Re-framing
In his book Leadership Mindset 2.0, R. Michael Anderson defines reframing as “the process of changing the way we look at a situation or problem.” He argues that reframing is essential for leaders. It allows them to see new opportunities, solve problems more creatively, and make better decisions. Below are some experiences I’ve had where re-framing changed and saved lives as well as made businesses more effective and defined how I look at the world.
Life Sucks Re-framing
One example that stands out is “re-framing”. Long ago, a dear friend came to me and asked that I take in their pets to care for. They had decided to end their life. Knowing them and the situation well, my gut intuition brought a strange thought that I was bold enough to just spit out. I said: “Wow! That is so amazingly awesome!!!” You can imagine the shock and confusion. The response was “Did you hear what I just said? Are you nuts? That’s a heartless thing to say!!!”
Well, it was, but I followed with – “So, you’ve decided to give it all up, end it all, leave everything behind?” Answer: “Yes!” Me: “So, isn’t that incredibly freeing? You’re going to leave behind all your friends, family, possessions, job and pets. What if you gave up all those things, move to another state, do something completely different, and make a whole new set of friends? It seems you have nothing you’re not willing to lose. That was over 20 years ago and that person lives on with an entirely different outlook on life.
I strongly advise against using the above approach. It was what worked for that person in that relationship, at that time. However, it can also be dangerous to make a wrong suggestion. In the U.S. you or your friend can and should call or message the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. There are certainly many other professional resources available. I used the above example as it was also profound for myself. It helped me rethink the opportunities that exist when nothing seems to be working.
Random Encounter Re-framing
One re-framing came for me as at 17 I was walking early to class at U.Va. This man came walking down the path towards me. When we met, we both stopped and looked into each other’s eyes like two very long-lost friends. Further, I swear I had the sense I’d known him from a previous life. However, at that time, I’d never heard of reincarnation. I had no idea who this guy was, but it was a very profound experience. I remember it clearly today as though it happened just yesterday. It made me think, that’s the kind of affect I want to have on others I encounter on my journey. I believe sometimes I do.
A picture of that man appeared the next day on the student paper. It proclaimed the Dalai Lama had come to visit the university. I decided I should learn more about this man. I did encounter him again 35 years later at a fundraiser, but that’s another story.
The notion of the opportunity to improves the lives of others within a few seconds has continued on with me. Occaisionally, we pass a construction-sites where a flag-person stops traffic and then lets us pass. I make a point to make eye-contact with that person to then smile and nod. So many of us drive right by these people in our fancy cars potentially leaving them feeling invisible. That brief interactions is consistently returned with a smile and a nod. That notion is also described in the book Holy Moments. While it describes these from a Christian perspective, the secular approach also applies.
Criticism vs Gift – a Leadership Mindset Perspective
There a carpenter’s rule that says measure twice, cut once. If you cut your piece of wood to short, you’ll have to start over. Likewise, writing code and discovering the flaws when the writing is done, or worse yet when it’s in production is costly. Hence, effective design reviews can make a big difference. When the reviewer sees something that could/should be done better, they can/should leave a comment. However, that comment can be delivered from a perspective of criticism, or it can be framed as a gift. The way you wrote this is wrong, verse have you considered doing it this way?
The latter approach to help someone improve their craft is more likely better received. On the receiving end, you should choose to take review comments as opportunities to improve your craft. You’ll likely learn more this way. Likewise, not being afraid of failure is a good first steps. Embracing failure as a gift goes one step further. The practice of a mindful, 5-why, post-mortem for a failure can turn any failure into a tremendous discovery and learning opportunity. Similarly, Radical Candor is great, but is only effective if it comes from and is received as an opportunity for improvement.
Pygmalion Re-framing as a Leadership Mindset
A professor told me within the first week students stack-rank each other of “smartest” to “dumbest”. Note, this is likely to happen in any group setting. This determines who gets picked on the playground and who gets invited to birthday parties. In my first week in 1st grade, a Portuguese girl struggling to keep up linguistically was viewed last. Meanwhile, the whole class was struggling to grasp fact families.
3 + 4 = 7, 4 + 3 = 7, 7 – 3 = 4, 7 – 4 = 3.
I asked her to stay during break and walk through it with yellow and red blocks … until she got it. Later, I sat with her in the front, while others were doing exercises. We did equations like 21 + 32 = 53, 71 + 12 = 83, 34 + 43 = 77, …
Crying, she managed to apply the same concept and she then started writing double-digit equations. 1st graders only do single-digit math. Noticing her excitement, others came up and were blown away. In 2 hours, she went from the dumbest kid in the class to the smartest. Believing she could do anything shifted her mindset and the confidence stuck with her. The confidence eroding impact on the other kids had become their villain. Applying the growth mindset theory helped them appreciate they hadn’t learned it “yet” as they mastered fact families.
The students made a transition from having a fixed mindset to having a growth mindset. It was no longer a question of someone being smart or dump, they could all learn to overcome uncertainty.
This lesson can be more broadly applied in converting the villains in our lives to becoming our heroes.
The Leadership Mindset Breaking Free of Obstacles
R. Michael Anderson argues that self-limiting obstacles are one of the biggest obstacles to leadership success. He defines self-limiting obstacles as “negative thoughts and beliefs that hold us back from achieving our full potential.”
Anderson provides a number of examples of self-limiting obstacles that can impact leaders, such as:
- Imposter syndrome: A feeling that we are not good enough.
- Perfectionism: A need to be perfect and avoid mistakes at all costs.
- Fear of failure: A fear of failing and negative consequences.
- Fear of success: A fear of the changes that success will bring to our lives.
- Procrastination: The habit of putting off important tasks.
Many of these limiting beliefs are rooted in our past. In order to be successful as leaders, we need to break free of these obstacles. It also helps to enable others to break free as well.
The Curse of the Experienced Leader
Anderson also describes the “curse of the experienced leader” as the tendency to become complacent and resistant to change. This can be a major obstacle to a leadership mindset and success. It can prevent leaders from adapting to the changing business landscape and meeting the needs of their teams.
Anderson identifies a number of factors that can contribute to the curse of the experienced leader, including:
- Success bias: Success in the past can lead us to believe that we have all the answers. This can create resistance to new ideas and approaches.
- Hubris: Experienced leaders may also develop a sense of hubris, or excessive pride in their own abilities. This can lead us to believe that we are infallible and that we do not need to learn or grow.
- Fear of failure: Fear of failure can come with having built a reputation for being successful. This can lead us to avoid taking risks and making changes.
Resistance to change can stifle innovation within our teams in a world that is constantly changing.
My on-going journey of conquering self-limiting fears.
Both my parents were amazing people that always told me that I would amount to nothing. My father said if I don’t have at least one doctor and one professor title, I would amount to nothing. One thanksgiving, I stood up to give a toast. I announced that I now had three doctors and four professors. Shocked, my father asked how I did that. I simply said I hired them all and they work for me now. With time, I was able to go from holding strong resentment toward my parents to appreciating the gift they gave me (even if inadvertently) of discovering the joy of continuous learning and improvement
My insecurities around relationships were perhaps most pronounced in the restaurant Kytaro in Munich in 1985 where an attractive girl at another table was laughing in such an amazing way. My friends encouraged me to go over and talk to her. I said she would just laugh and scoff at me. I regretted not at least trying for the next 10 years. After moving to California, one day at work, I heard someone laugh in such a joyous way in the other room that I thought I would not let such an opportunity go by again. It wasn’t easy, but I won her over – she’s stunningly beautiful, plays piano like a concert pianist, was one of the original Artificial Intelligence engineers, is the kindest person I’ve ever met and has now been my wife for a while.
I later found out that she worked in Munich in 1985. One of her favorite restaurants was Kytaro. When she showed me a picture of her at the time, I knew it was her. It seems we crossed paths every day as her path between home and work in Munich intersected with mine. Also, when her company Intellicorp moved out of their Los Altos office, our company, BroadVision moved into that space. Our paths had crossed many times before we met again.
As a young child, I was always picked last for sports teams. No one wanted me on their team. In college, I discovered a very cerebral sport in Ultimate Frisbee – it turns out to also be very physically challenging. I made it to our college team that ended up placing fourth in nationals. Then in Germany, I helped captain a team from go from last place to winning nationals and I competed in European and world championships.
A New Perspective and Mindset
I was that little kid that didn’t believe he could be an athlete. I became a national champion that believes it would be possible in any sport. Josh Waitzkin tells a great story about this in The Art of Learning. After he won his first National Chess Championship at age nine, he later became World Champion of Tai Chi Chuan.
I also went from being one who was told he’d never have a career that would amount to anything felt he no longer saw any limits. And, the shy kid who never thought he could win over and amazing partner is now married to the most amazing person in the world.
What have I learned from all this?
One thing I do recall from age four was that I had decided in my life I wanted to be kind to all living things and help those that needed help. Through what I’ve been able to overcome, I have the belief that anyone can do this and have helped countless people far exceed what they believed was their potential. I would like to show every person a mirror in which they can see the potential, capabilities, and beauty within themselves that I can see within them. I do appreciate that some people are easier to reach, are more coach-able than others, but I do what I can where I can.
Spiritual Psychology as a Part of a Leadership Mindset
“If you look up the word “psyche” in the dictionary, you will find “breath, principle of life, Soul.” But if you look up “psychology,” you will find “the science of mind and behavior.” Somehow, in the translation from essence to practice, the most important aspect of “psyche” has been lost.“
– The University of Santa Monica, Programs in Spiritual Psychology.
Matters of the soul, our meaning, purpose, calling in life are often things thought to lie outside of work. However, we spend the majority of our waking hours at work. Why would we not integrate such a core aspect of our lives into what we do and how we do it?
I have always made it a point to consider the well being of the whole person at work. That whole person includes their psyche. I recognize that one can’t always find the job that one loves, but I do believe with supporting, empowering leadership one can discover a way to love what one does. As a leader that enables that, including the ability to master one’s craft and see the impact of one’s work, I find the rewards land on the employees, the company and the customers.
Neuroplasticity and the Leadership Mindset
In Leadership Mindset 2.0, Anderson also speaks to neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity allows us to create new pathways around blockages. We can rewire our mindset and overcome new obstacles as they arise. Imagine a maze with a wall blocking the exit. If we try to go straight through the wall, we will fail. However, if we start exploring the maze, we may eventually find a way around the wall.
Experience has taught me that opportunities to rewire via neuroplasticity abound. The world is continually changing at an increasing rate. Every situation we encounter is unique from any other. Every failure creates opportunity to do a root cause analysis as to how to avoid similar failures going forward. Starting over and succeeding again and again has rewired my thinking to one where any business can succeed and survive and overcome any challenges. While every challenge is new, experience has taught me that when I reset and rewire, there is a way past and challenge. Having this experience builds extreme resiliency. Also, if you’re not truly confident, your team will sense the doubt. Hence, focus on yourself first.
Learning from others increases the numbers of way we can look at challenges and continuously provides us with new perspectives. Harry S. Truman said, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” I continuously consume books to provide new perspectives, perfect my craft and expand my horizons on my journey of human transformation.
Life has taught me what got me here won’t get me there. I must continuously retrain, learn, consider new approaches and learn to confront every storm.
Anderson also speaks to our reluctance as leaders to delegate and how this is very limiting. He also conveys various tactics on how to overcome that reluctance. In my experience, I learned at my first job to write well-structured code with tests and documentation enabling others to continue with it. This freed me up to take on new challenges, move up, and increase my impact. Hence, as a leader, I’ve come up with clear strategies on spinning up new hires to take on new work while minimizing the impact on myself or my team. Likewise, I’ve devised strategies to help others become effective leaders.
- Leadership Mindset 2.0
By: R. Michael Anderson
- Seven Practices of a Mindful Leader Lessons from Google and a Zen Monastery Kitchen
By: Marc Lesser, Daniel J. Siegel MD
- What got you here won’t get you there
By: Marshall Goldsmith, Mark Reiter
- Multipliers – How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter
By: Liz Wiseman
- Mindset – The New Psychology of Success
By: Carol S. Dweck PhD
- Humilitas – A Lost Key to Life, Love, and Leadership
By: John Dickson
- Servant Leadership in Action – How You Can Achieve Great Relationships and Results
By: Ken Blanchard, Renee Broadwell
- Trillion Dollar Coach – The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell
By: Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg, Alan Eagle
- The Brain That Changes Itself Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science
By: Norman Doidge
- Many more books on leadership I’ve consumed at least once and recommend
- My Blog – should you be interested in more of the lessons I’ve learned on my journey so far
Imagery and Symbolism – Ganesha Image Above
The image can be interpreted in many different ways, depending on the individual viewer’s experiences and beliefs. For some, it may represent a literal journey from darkness to light. For others, it may represent a more symbolic journey from self-doubt to self-acceptance.
Ultimately, the image is a message of hope and inspiration. It reminds us that we are all capable of breaking free from the chains that hold us back. We can all achieve our dreams, no matter what obstacles we may face.
In the center of the image is a figure of the Hindu god Ganesha, representing new beginnings and removing of obstacles. He is seated on a lotus flower, symbolizing symbolizes purity, overcoming adversity, and rebirth. In his hands, he holds a trident, representing the three gunas (qualities) of nature: sattva (goodness, calmness, harmonious), rajas (passion, activity, movement), and tamas (ignorance, inertia, laziness). He also holds some sweets, representing the sweetness of knowledge and wisdom.
Around Ganesha are floating shards of broken glass, a metaphor for the breaking of the ego. It means to let go of your old identity, to be free from your past, and to open up the self-limiting self-doubt and imposter syndrome that can hold us back. But Ganesha is not afraid of the glass. He is calmly seated, radiating peace and confidence. He knows that he is strong enough to break free of these negative thoughts and beliefs.
In the background, there is a bright light shining through the clouds. This light represents the new beginning that awaits those who are willing to break free of their self-doubt. It is the light of hope, possibility, and infinite potential.
The image conveys a sense of hope, strength, and resilience. It reminds us that we are all capable of overcoming our self-doubt and achieving our goals. Ganesha helps us remove the obstacles that stand in our way and guide us towards our new beginnings.