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Developing a Leadership Mindset

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Digital Marketing - Study Notes:

To transition successfully into a leadership role, managers need to develop a leadership mindset. To do this effectively, leaders need to be able to:

  • Visualize how things should be
  • Communicate the vision
  • Take a wider, more panoramic view

Leadership mindset

Leading requires a different mindset to managing. Leading is more focused on creating the unknown than on controlling the known. It deals with setting direction rather than with operational detail.

Changing mindset in order to think like a leader is not easy. Metaphorically speaking, if you are naturally left-handed, choosing to do as many things as possible with your right hand is a challenge! It would require disciplined thinking, and doing consciously things that you would normally do automatically.

Managers are accustomed to planning actions and events on a “get the job done” timescale, and used to finding solutions to undo problem situations. So how can they adjust to longer timescales, and the challenge of envisioning new situations or realities?


Imagine a manager is governing a village in a valley. What if the manager decided to move up from the valley to the mountain top and look at the entire landscape from higher up? Seeing to the far horizon could reveal a storm coming in that could flood the village. The manager, with this information, now has the opportunity to act as a leader!

A leader could envision moving the village farther up the mountainside to stay above the flood. The new challenge becomes how to inspire and persuade everyone to move house, leave the familiar, and create a new home above the flood plain. The leader is not concerned with how specifically to move and re-build the village. The leader is just concerned that the village is moved and re-built.

Changing mindset may need courage and determination. What if a new site for the village is difficult to find? What if people don’t want to move house and live farther up the mountain? What if the mountain looks hard to climb in the first place, or the view turns out not to be worth it? This is the challenge facing the manager: how to climb the mountain anyway, just to find out.

Visualize how things should be

As the example shows, to develop a leadership mindset, a leader needs to be able to visualize how things should be and lead by communicating that vision. For example, a manager at one level pays most attention to how the business produces its products and services, and how efficiently it does that. Meanwhile, a manager at a higher level pays attention to its target market and how to satisfy that market by producing the right products in the right way. This second manager may be a director of the business, and considered its leader. But the activity described is still managing.

What if that director’s horizon moves to the entire industry that the business serves at national or even international levels? Questions may then arise. For example, is our target market the only one for us? With such a wider scope, new possibilities become obvious and creating a vision to achieve them a more compelling idea.

Communicate the vision

Once a vision begins to crystallize, the challenge of how to make it happen presents itself. As a first step, you need to explain the vision to others so that they can become enthused by it. Then you have to recruit people, opinions, and resources to the cause, to gather momentum and make it look solid even before there is any tangible reality. The focus has now moved away from the certainties of doing the work to the more intangible. Ask questions such as “What if this…?" or “How could that…?” to engage people’s excitement and creativity.

Take a wider, more panoramic view

By doing that successfully, a leader can spot risks and potential problems before they develop. The organization can then put in place measures to deal with the challenge. From this wider perspective a leader focuses on the general rather than the specific, thinking as a generalist rather than as a specialist.

With this wider, bigger-picture perspective, seeing into the distance and noticing potential risks is part of learning to tolerate uncertainty and ambiguity. Talking to a wider range of people becomes normal, because more people are involved, and wider perspectives and many more opinions and experiences become available. Making decisions and choices has wider implications, and whether or not to make something happen as part of progressing a vision, may be one of a variety of such decisions. In this way, the leader’s thinking is naturally more generalist in its focus than the pragmatic, implementation-focused manager’s mindset.

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Bill Phillips

International Facilitator, Trainer, and Team Coach

  • Has successfully coached CEOs, board members, directors, executive teams, and team leaders in public and private companies, NGOs, and UN organizations in 15 countries across four continents
  • Is the creator of Future-basing®, a highly potent process for building strategy, vision, and cooperation
  • Inspires people to build excellent interpersonal relationships and achieve their goals

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Thinking Strategically
Bill Phillips
Skills Expert

Being able to think strategically, and to see the bigger picture, are attributes that every great leader should possess. With strategic thinking, you can create the future for yourself and your employees. It helps you to identify opportunities for change, and take advantage of them. This, in turn, increases market share and profitability, and makes your business more durable.

In this module, you will learn how to become a strategic thinker. You will discover the characteristics of strategic thinking, and its many benefits. You will also be introduced to a method called Future-basing® that you can use to build a vision for the future in your own organization.

You will also learn how to develop a leadership mindset, which entails being able to visualize how things should be, communicating that vision, and taking a wider, more panoramic view. This should help you transition from acting like a manager to thinking like a leader – which is another key take-away from this module.