Developing a Leadership Mindset: Five Keys for GenX Managers

If one of your 2018 resolutions is to level up in your career, you’re not alone. Learning a new skill and getting a new job or promotion account for nearly one-third of New Year’s resolutions in 2018. Unfortunately, 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail by February. But this the first week of January, so harness that new energy and enthusiasm as you think about what it takes to transition from manager to leader.

Many experts believe that one of the most important factors in achieving a goal—any goal—is mindset. Mindset is a belief about yourself and your qualities such as intelligence, talent, and personality. Those with a growth mindset believe that those basic qualities can be changed, developed or improved through dedication and effort. In terms of leadership, your mindset will be the framework for deciding the type of leader you want to be and what it will take to get there. For GenX managers looking to move from “boss” to leader, here are five keys to developing a leadership mindset:

Key One: Know yourself

Generation X has always been known for “keeping it real”, and that sentiment has its place in leadership. Authentic leadership–a model popularized by Harvard Business School professor and former Medtronic CEO Bill George–encompasses five domains: understanding your purpose, practicing solid values, leading with heart, building connected relationships and demonstrating self-discipline. But there’s more to authentic leadership than just being yourself. Authentic leaders need the self-awareness (another GenX trait) to keep things professional and focused on the greater good.

Key Two: Embrace the idea of leadership

This can be tough for X-ers. We were kind of a rebellious generation growing up and even now we aren’t always trustful of authority. Suddenly we find ourselves on the other side of the table. It’s possible to reconcile those conflicting feelings by focusing on the bigger picture: your purpose. Do you feel compelled to help others succeed and transform your organization? Those things require effective, thoughtful leadership and you can be the one to deliver it in an authentic way that feels right to you.

Key Three: Go beyond problem solving

Creative problem solving is part of the GenX brand. We’re pragmatic and independent and can figure out how to get things done. And while this makes us successful managers, leadership requires big picture perspective. Systems thinking,–recognizing the interconnections among the parts of a system and synthesizing them into a unified view of the whole–is a powerful tool for leaders. By understanding how parts of a system (your organization) are connected and related, leaders can spot faulty structures, misaligned goals and ineffective processes across the organization. Systems thinking plays a critical role in effective leadership.

Key Four: Be open to change

This is another one that doesn’t come so easily to Generation X. GenX managers can be somewhat change resistant, partially because we’re pretty good at figuring out how to get our intended results within an existing framework. Being open to change requires vision, something that all effective leaders have. Embrace the idea of the improved future state that change can bring about.

Key Five: Inspire others

An old proverb states: “If you are leading and no one is following you, then you are just taking a walk.” True leaders don’t manage; they inspire others through their actions, their words, and their belief in a vision. Share your vision with your team, your colleagues, and your superiors. Be positive and passionate. Enthusiasm is contagious.

Leadership isn’t just the next rung on the ladder, and effective managers don’t always make effective leaders. Leadership requires a skill set that involves broad perspective and big thinking—both of which begin with the development of leadership mindset.

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