Leaders - how to win the mindset game

Leadership Performance equals potential minus interference
Posted on: Wednesday 04, May 2016
Category: Thought Leadership

This blog explores why it is so essential for leaders to learn how to develop the right mindset, leadership skills and leadership qualities for high-performance team building, based on 'authentic self' and authentic leadership.

[Reading time - 4 ½ minutes]

In his Inner game series of books author W. Timothy Gallwey, drawing from his career as a sports coach guru, believed that optimum individual performance in any endeavour can be defined as…

Performance = Potential – Interference

Gallwey postulated that to be at our best we must master our potential whilst minimising our interferences. I have found as a Leadership Consultant that this has a lot of resonance when applied to leadership teams. In the context of leading a business, the effects on overall business performance of potential or interference within a leadership team are exponentially amplified! This is why team building is so essential - especially when building leadership skills and leadership qualities.

Similarly, in researching my own book on the topic of authenticity (not a ‘plug’ by the way), I believe that to reach our true authentic self (our potential) we first have to overcome and conquer our acquired self (interference) - a transformation journey leaders should undertake. Here’s a quick contrast of our two selves side-by-side:

“There is something in every one of you that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself. It is the only true guide you will ever have. And if you cannot hear it, you will all of your life spend your days on the ends of strings that somebody else pulls.” (Howard Thurman)

Simply put, the acquired self is our conditioning - our default habits, behaviours and attitudes etc.  Applying back to the above formula - these are our interferences. Our authentic self is our true identity - and our potential. Our acquired self however, feels very real to us, but it is certainly not our identity – merely what we believe to be true about ourselves. This can be transformed.

It turns out that leadership teams are highly influenced by the presence of either the acquired or the authentic self. Here’s why…  

The hijacking power of the acquired self

The limiting presence of the acquired self in any team dynamic exponentially exaggerates dysfunction and disharmony  - resulting in low performance.  The more senior the people, the more averse the effects are of fear, control, and manipulation etc. - so in a leadership team, this can be very destructive.  

This is because the acquired self operates from fear-anxiety-survival-based reactive brain-programmes, triggering or sensitising the sympathetic nervous system's instinctive flight or flight response - the ‘downstairs brain'. At its worst, this results in your attentional mental capacity being hijacked. Your body is involuntarily gripped by these reactive brain-programmes and considerably amplify its power. The resulting negative emotional state is highly contagious because we can all easily sense this sort of ‘threat’ either consciously or unconsciously.

The infinite resourcefulness of our authentic self

Conversely, the opposite is also true. According to Amy Cuddy author of 'Presence' and Professor at Harvard University - a healthy presence of authenticity [in a leadership team] is an impressive indicator of success because [leadership] qualities become readily present. For example, imagination, drive, willingness to work through issues, initiative, persistence in the face of obstacles, enhanced emotional intelligence, creative thinking and the ability to identify new opportunities and novel ideas.  It doesn’t stop there either. High performing teams create an exponentially contagious effect on trust, openness, collaboration, high levels of commitment, accountability, confidence and passion.

Amy goes on to state that we can’t simply fake it till we make it either. This is because both the acquired and authentic self are brain programmes - functions of either our ‘downstairs or upstairs’ brains. These brain-programmes are deeply coded within the core of every human being and they leak out in our actions, our language and our behaviours etc.

(How these two brain-programmes are actually activated in the ‘upstairs and downstairs’ parts of our brain’s neurology will be the subject of another blog.) 

So how do we access our authentic presence?

As we let our own light shine, we give other people permission to do the same.  As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” (Marianne Williamson - from Amy’s book ‘Presence’)

Similar to Amy, I know from my own research, that when we are operating from a point of calm inner core confidence, we begin to access a deeper connection to ourselves. By undergoing specific change processes (see actions later on), it is very possible to free oneself from a conditioned mindset.  Also by learning as a team to trust each other and to be open with one another starts to profoundly shift people to more emotionally intelligent and authentic ways of being. 

The authentic self, when in residence, is very powerful and is highly contagious too. This is because everyone around just senses its presence. It is genuine and totally believable because it just is - hence authentic. When you begin to activate your authenticity, then you will start to access to your infinite resourcefulness and you begin operate in a state of ‘flow’ - at your very best.  That’s why authenticity is such an essential leadership quality.

"The most powerful is he who has himself in his own power". (Lucius Anaeus Seneca)

Key qualities to access our authentic self:

  • Emotional intelligence - emotion, feeling and intuition. These are advanced leadership skills that (with the right people) can be easily learned.
  • Learning to become more relaxed in your mind and body as individuals and as a team.  This is often termed mindfulness.  These qualities provide additional information that help leadership teams make good decisions.
  • Learning to balance planning ahead with preparing your mindset.  Learning how to purposefully choose your optimum state of mind for the present situation is important too.
  • We lose power when we feel nervous, protected or defensive. At these moments you can’t connect with others and be present in the moment.  However, there is a lot of personal and team power gained when we learn to put aside our fears and desire to purposefully connect.  Amy Cuddy says that when you become present, you allow others to be present too. 
  • Sometimes we all ‘hit a wall’, or occasionally things just don't turn out well - the trick is to accept these situations, don’t make a habit of them and learn to build from them instead.

By the way, this has nothing to do with intellect - it’s a mindset thing. You can be the brightest leaders in the world, but that won't help you to overcome your acquired self, or to discover your authentic self.  Intellect will of course, help you to add value though. 

Potential actions to get the ball rolling…  

Regardless of our current circumstances we all have a choice to overcome our acquired self or not - it is a prfound transformational journey that takes time.

Here are some suggestions for you…

  • I recommend that you read deeply around this subject. (recommended starter reading list follows).
  • For leaders... get a good coach to work with you as individuals and facilitate your team building that is tailor-made to your business. I believe this is essential for any leadership team to develop the above-mentioned leadership qualities.
  • Learn to relax your mind and body - learn about mindfulness - it's powerful when done as a team with a skilled practitioner to guide you. 
  • Undergoing a specialised development programme built around you as a team is useful for leadership teams to create mindset shifts, transformation and accessing your authentic self.  For example - Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) is ideal for this type of nuanced learning.  See my previous blog http://bit.ly/bechangeyouwant

I believe that today’s organisations more than ever need authentic leaders and high performing teams. So I'd love to help you as a leadership team to develop and grow towards your full potential to make the world better.


[Word count 1,230 Words]

Resources for further reading and learning:

FREE Authentic Vs Acquired Self Questionnaire (Very comprehensive - no sign up)

Presence, by Amy Cuddy, Orion 2016

The Inner Game of Work, by W. Timothy Gallwey, RHT 2001

You Are More Than You Think - the return to your authentic self, by Andrew Jenkins, SRA 2014

Also check out my page on Authentic Leadership.

My services

Senior management coaching

I am a skilled leadership and team facilitator and development consultant. Please contact me today to discuss how you and your organisation can benefit from developing your team in emotional intelligence development or high performance team programmes. Call 07795 182 860 or email andrew@pdx-consulting.com to arrange an informal discussion.

Sneak peek at my latest book

Click on the image above to head over to order it now. It's getting useful reviews too.

For other books in The Authority Guide Series, click on the following graphic:

See my website for more information on developing successful teams or for developing a team charter

(My first book - helps you create personal change and how to overcome your conditioning to reach your true authentic self.)

Download my detailed FREE questionnaire too. It measures where you are on an authenticity scale. It includes tips on advancing towards your authentic self. 

Other Leadership Blogs

High Performance Teams Fact or Fantasy - Blog Post

Leadership - Who is Pulling Your Strings -Leadership development blog from Andrew Jenkins Leadership Development Consultant and Coach

Click here for Further blogs

All supporting infographics designed and created by Andrew Jenkins.


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