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The optimum thinking habits to adopt to be a highly successful leader and manager

Mar 18, 2024

Being an inspirational manager is as much about mindset as methods.  Managers can wheel-out their finest management techniques, but if their actions are not underpinned by an enabling mix of positive attitudes and behaviours, business will fail to prosper as it should.

The Winning Edge celebrates 40 years this year and having so far worked in 19 countries  with thousands of individuals across a broad range of industries, we believe there are standout thinking habits that can be adopted to ensure a manager and team work effectively.

Adopt an Expect Success Mindset

As a leader and a manager, it’s essential you consciously think about the mindset you adopt. How often do you think about the way you think about what you think about? This has a massive effect on the results you’ll create for yourself in life. For example, a client has requested a meeting to review where you’re at with a project where timings are behind due to circumstances beyond your control. You might be thinking about it in one of the two following ways:

“Frank has a way of walking into the room that makes me feel uptight and tongue-tied. I don’t want to mess this up because he needs to believe we can handle things and keep to the project deadline. The team are going to be looking to me to lead us through this but I’m going to really struggle to feel and appear confident.”


“Frank is straight-talking and doesn’t take any prisoners. I admire how forthright he is because we all know where we stand. It’s a case of us all pulling together and being prepared for the meeting; it’s important we have a plan to move forward and that Frank feels confident in our ability.”

Which mindset will help you get the results you want? Whilst an expecting success mindset doesn’t necessarily guarantee everything will go to plan, it’ll stack the cards in your favour. If you’re more consciously aware of the way you’re thinking about a situation, you can ensure you are in a more positive frame of mind, thus you’ll feel more resourceful, solution-orientated and creative. The brain cannot be resourceful when in a negative state of mind; you are effectively bringing the shutters down to access any ideas and solutions.

Create a Positive Self-Image.

You cannot lead and manage, inspire and build confidence, if you do not believe in yourself. It’s crucial that you believe in your competency and your worth to be a success in what you do. If a team is feeling inspired and yet their manager is not inspirational, I would suggest they are being led by somebody else. When you have a positive self-image, you can lead from a place of confidence, which is very different from arrogance. Confidence is often misconstrued as arrogance, which is actually because the onlooker is envious of that quiet self-assuredness and being comfortable in your own skin. Be aware of the nature of your self-talk- how you describe yourself to both you, and to others. Repeat assumptive affirmations about yourself to believe in a positive outcome and use the powerful tool of visualisation to see yourself as the kind of person who successfully leads and manages a team who engages and wants to work with you.


Rather than react to a request made of you, or to a person’s words or actions that you might find unacceptable, slow everything down by following The Winning Edge’s MUMMS principle- to Make Up My Mind Slowly. This allows you the time and space to think about the possible options available to you before making a decision. By employing MUMMS, you will then be able to consciously choose the most helpful emotion (rather than the habituated one) for dealing with what might feel like an emotionally charged situation. This is crucial for a manager- to be more response-able. You can ask yourself: ‘How do I want to think about this?’ It puts you in control and you can decide how you want to respond.     

Take Personal Responsibility

It’s liberating and empowering to know that you are always exactly where you want to be, doing exactly what you want to do. This will be aligned with your values and it’s knowing you might not like everything you want to do, but you want to do it more than you don’t, otherwise you wouldn’t be doing it, based on whatever provides most emotional ease. Accepting this gives a sense of control and you know that if you want different, you can choose different. Maybe it’s about updating your values, which perhaps haven’t been consciously reviewed in a while. It’s knowing that your feet will always tell you exactly where you want to be. To quote the author and cartoonist Ashleigh Brilliant: “The great thing about my job is there’s always a choice. I can do it willingly or unwillingly.”

Ensure you are Congruent and Consistent

You cannot force someone to adopt a certain mindset. As former Home Secretary Douglas Hurd once said: “You can’t legislate people into being nice.”  However, trust and respect from a team are the result of managers exemplifying characteristics such as empathy, personal accountability, active listening, cooperation, collaboration etc. These qualities need to come from a place of authenticity, rather than from the “book of prescriptive management techniques”, and be consistent across circumstances, rather than to appease, please or impress. A team then knows where they stand. It’s also important that these qualities are congruent with values-driven behaviour, as opposed to values you claim to have. When this attitude is in place, as a manager, it’s likely your attitudes are reflected in the attitude of others.

Be aware of the Mental Maps of others

We don’t see the world as it is, we see it as we are and that’s because we all operate according to our own Mental Map; this is our individual perception of our surroundings based on our values, beliefs, experience and expectations. Therefore, everyone won’t necessarily view a situation the way you do- they might have a differing opinion, they might outright disagree with you and you might not be able to fathom why this is. Different views, opinions, values and beliefs. One way to understand another’s differing perspective is to use a tool we at The Winning Edge call the Beach Ball. If you imagine two people holding opposite sides of a multi coloured beach ball and you ask one what colour the ball is and they reply: ‘It’s red, white and blue’ and the other person says: ‘No, it’s orange, green and yellow,’ who is right and who is wrong? They both are! If ever you don’t understand someone else’s point of view, get around to their side of the Beach Ball. It doesn’t mean you’ll agree with them, but you’ll have a greater understanding of where they are coming from and it can oil the wheels of communication.

Improve your Goodwill Accounts

You have a Goodwill Account with everyone you know, and every customer and client you deal with.  A Goodwill Account is like your bank account- you make deposits and you take withdrawals. Examples of deposits are when you help someone out, always arrive on time and take an interest in that person. Examples of withdrawals from your Goodwill Account include always asking for favours, always late for meetings and appointments, and being unreliable. What happens when you take out more than you put in? You go overdrawn. You keep the balance in the black when you keep the deposits going in. It’s always about being authentic- never expecting anything in return. What state are your Goodwill Accounts in with your team? Could work be done on making some deposits?

Lead by Stature

There is a discernible difference between leading by stature, as opposed to leading by status. Stature is something others give you, you earn it, status is something you give yourself. If you lead by stature, your Goodwill Accounts are very often in the black, meaning people want to do things for you. That’s when you get discretionary effort- your team are willing to stay late to work on a project as the deadline draws near. This isn’t about Brownie points e.g. ‘I’ll let Chris go home early tonight so I can ask him to stay later tomorrow.’ If you lead by stature, you build positive relationships with a foundation of trust, authenticity and respect.

There are a plethora of skills required to be an effective manager but in order to lead your team, it’s important to not only get your mindset in check, but to also ensure you make efforts to understand theirs. Getting to know your team, building and maintaining authentic connections, and knowing what their emotional drivers are, will result in optimum communication and collaboration. It’s a win-win for all.

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