8 Truths Every Effective Leader Tells Themselves (Almost) Daily

IBEC is very grateful for our partnership with The Center. They have given permission to share this article by Jay Desko originally posted on their website  www.centerconsulting.org. All BAM businesses would do well to consider these eight truths.

Larry W. Sharp, BAM Support Specialist, IBEC Ventures


Try this experiment: think about something that is not true yet still makes you anxious, sad, or annoyed. For example, “Life is really hard right now, and I know it will be this way forever.” Now,  replace that thought with a truth like, “I am in a hard season right now, but this season will eventually pass.” Uncontrollable negative thoughts and untruths can be destructive and even devastating at times. It can be hard to suppress the impact of untrue thoughts taking us captive. But those who have a long track record of effective leadership are often skilled at focusing on truths more than faulty thoughts and the lies we sometimes tell ourselves. Here are 8 truths effective leaders tell themselves (almost) daily.

1. Even though life is hard, I am strong.

Teresa Van Woy was raised by a mother who had serious mental health issues. She experienced a childhood of physical abuse, emotional torment, and extreme poverty. And yet she became a board certified podiatrist and raised 3 children with her husband. Her memoir is called Wildflower because her resiliency is as strong as one. Successful leaders resist victim labels and speak truth to themselves including this message, “I am strong and can prevail even through these difficult circumstances.”

2. Feedback from others is an asset, not a threat.

I recently saw a leader who, when confronted with the information that their behavior was damaging the organization, became as defensive as a cornered cat. Rather than become teachable, this leader instead attacked, blamed, and withdrew. Those who view feedback as a threat will live a life of defensiveness. However, the most effective leaders view input from others as an asset. They invite it, humbly listen to it, and resist responding defensively.

3. Blaming others for my mistakes would just be another mistake.

Leaders sometimes go from a childhood game of “Pin the Tail on the Donkey” to an adult game of “Pin the Blame on a Colleague.” And it is not as fun to watch. I have been in several meetings over the years where the leader failed to own up to their mistakes and pinned the error on someone else. Effective leaders resist this by humbly and authentically owning their mistakes.

4. I cannot expect loyalty unless I show it.

I read the memoir of a former marine who worked tirelessly to help get his Afghan interpreter and his family out of Afghanistan after the U.S. withdrew. This interpreter was extremely loyal to the marine during his tour and even helped save his life during one battle. But now his life and his family members’ lives were in danger. The marine trusted the interpreter like a brother. Loyalty was shown to him, and he was relentless in showing loyalty back. Effective leaders expect loyalty because they model it in their own leadership.

5. My reputation is worth even more than my bank account.

One of the highest-paid and highly published professors at Harvard was accused of fabricating some of her research in recent years. The twist is that her expertise was on the subject of dishonesty! Regardless of the outcome of the accusation, her reputation will be clouded for years to come. Effective leaders often remind themselves of these words from Proverbs – your reputation is worth more than gold.

6. Excess pleasure leads to pain, not happiness.

Psychiatrist Dr. Anna Lembke said, “We’re all running from pain. Some of us take pills. Some of us couch surf while binge-watching Netflix. Some of us read romance novels. We’ll do almost anything to distract ourselves from ourselves. Yet all of this trying to insulate ourselves from pain seems only to have made our pain worse.” When people seek an excessive amount of quick fixes of pleasure, they lose the ability to enjoy pleasure and become even less tolerant of the slightest discomfort. Effective leaders are more successful at delaying short-term gratification and pushing through pain on the way to long-term accomplishment.

7. To be successful I must work harder and be better than my competition.

Myron Rolle was a successful college football player who went on to become a Rhodes Scholar and Neurosurgeon. As a young Bahamian-American boy, Myron was encouraged by his father to “be so good they can’t deny you.” In other words, work harder and strive to be better than anyone else. Seldom will you find a successful leader who did not invest many hours and make great sacrifices to become who they are. Successful leaders work harder, read or listen often, network more, and practice longer.

8. Surrounding myself with wise people is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Remember that simple but true statement from the Tom Hanks character Forrest Gump, “Stupid is as stupid does”? Well leaders who are too proud and insecure to hire and take advice from people wiser and smarter than themselves are… stupid. Those who want to feel superior surround themselves with people who are not as smart as them. But leaders who are smart are also humble enough to realize they need others around them to complement their talents.

Contact us to learn how personalized coaching can help you overcome the negative thoughts and learn to speak truth to yourself.

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