You Don’t Need to Act Like a Leader: Do This Instead
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Do you have a person in your life—an employee, a relative, a passing acquaintance—who just gets under your skin?
And whether it’s due to circumstance or an ingrained belief that you need to be nice, you grit your teeth and pretend to get along? Pretend not to see their flaws? Pretend, essentially, that you have a positive relationship with them, when the reality couldn’t be further from the truth?
Here’s the thing: the only person you’re really fooling in this scenario is yourself.
I had the distinct pleasure of listening to Maria Nemeth a few months ago. Maria is captivating, measured, and wise. She’s been doing her work for 50 years. She speaks slowly and doesn’t say much.
But what she does say is powerful.
Her thesis boils down to this: however you feel about someone in your life…they already know it.
In other words: if you don’t respect or even like somebody, all the niceties in the world can’t cover it up. They know exactly how you feel. And even unspoken, that dynamic colors every moment of every interaction between the two of you.
What Are You Really Thinking? Everyone Already Knows It.
Imagine that person who drives you up the wall again. Think about your interactions: feigning politeness while silently judging them. Now imagine that person knows exactly what you’re really thinking.
Not a pretty picture, right?
For most of us, not who we’d like to be. As business leaders, for example, we want to support our employees. We want to empower them, believe in them, entrust them with greater and greater responsibility. We want to see them succeed.
But if we don’t believe that they’re capable…well, we unknowingly undermine them every step of the way.
Here’s what is so challenging about this concept: it’s not about how you act. It’s about how you think.
It’s one thing to perform the activities of a leader, to embody the role of CEO in words and actions.
But if, in your heart, you can only see the flaws and the problems with the people you work with, those great actions are diminished.
Shifting Your Perception From Red to Green
How do you change your mindset? Maria says it starts with perception. The world isn’t just one fixed way; it appears the way it does because of your perceptions.
To simplify things, there are two lenses through which you can view the world: red and green.
When you use the red lens, you approach the person in front of you with the belief that they are flawed. You see the things they need to work on, the things that bother you. Your attitude is inherently negatively oriented.
When you use the green lens, on the other hand, you approach the person in front of you with the following beliefs:
This person is a hero, whole and complete
This person has goals and dreams; they desire to make a difference
This person has their own answers
This person is contributing to me right now
This person deserves to be treated with dignity and respect
In short, the green lens assumes the best in all people at all times. It imagines that everyone is being the best possible version of themselves in any given moment. They might not be the right fit for your organization—their plan or their skills might not align with yours.
But not being a fit doesn’t make someone lazy. It doesn’t mean they suck. In fact, they’ll be nothing short of spectacular under different circumstances.
Changing Beliefs, Not Behaviors
What’s complicated is that changing the lens you use is not about a set of behaviors. It’s about a set of beliefs. And beliefs may be more difficult to change—they’re less about taking action and more about learning to think differently.
For entrepreneurs in particular, who like something to DO, the quiet work of changing your mindset can be a challenge.
Awareness is always the first step. After Maria’s talk, I spent some time reflecting on my own relationships. In many cases, I use the green lens already.
But there are key people in my life who I tend to see through a red lens.
I am working to change that.
That work can be daunting, but here’s what I see as the upside when it comes to business:
You don’t have to put on a facade for your employees. You don’t have to work so hard to motivate your team. You don’t have to muscle them into greatness.