A recent tweet from Bill Gates encapsulated some key elements for a mentally tough leader.
As a Leadership Coach and Neuroscience Practitioner I apply the latest neuroscience to the skills of Leadership and Brain health for business. This video above captures some key areas that demonstrate mental toughness.
Why is mental resilience important?
Because mental strength and the ability to manage your reactions to perceived or real threats and fears, helps to keep the anxiety and stress of leading under control. It helps to keep the prefrontal cortex in the driving seat (planning, logic, analysis area) and prevent the emergency flight, fight, freeze Limbic areas of the brain (emotional response and regulation) from taking over. When the prefrontal cortex is in control, a person is generally calmer, which is healthier for the brain and the body and everyone else around them!
A mentally tough leader remains calm under pressure and a definition to help describe this is:
‘Mental toughness is the ability to resist, manage and overcome doubts, worries, concerns and circumstances that prevent you from succeeding, or excelling at a task, objective or a performance outcome. Mental toughness isn’t about being macho, overpowering, ruthless, reckless or over-controlling’.
How does this link to Bills Gates’s top tips for leaders?
- Learn to say no – Mentally tough leaders tend to focus on what they want to achieve and what is needed to do that. They have self-confidence, share their opinions willingly. They can filter and without guilt or concern, say ‘no’ to that which does not keep them on track.
- Welcome criticism – The mentally tough know they are not perfect. They might not have all the answers and know that openness to listen to others, arms them with greater insight and perspective. They have the courage to hear the good, bad and ugly.
- Have optimism – The mentally tough face challenges just like everyone else. They see problems as opportunities. Changing plans, direction or dealing with the unexpected, is to be expected and can only be planned for to an extent. Experience of working through these challenges builds greater resilience to meet future ones.
- Goal focused – Mentally tough leaders set challenging goals and targets for achieving them. Motivation is provided by goals that have a sense of purpose for what matters to an individual. The drive and commitment to achievement comes also from connecting to the value of the goal. The challenge of rising to a the goal and falling short is greater than the fear of not achieving it from the outset.
- Willingness to fail – Mentally tough leaders are willing to risk failure and be criticised because it is a step to being better next time. The learning from failure, trying, or experimenting is still painful but reflecting on the changes needed to be better next time has a stronger attraction.
Mental toughness (MTQ Plus) can be assessed in terms of the areas below and built through a short coaching programme.
If you are interested in this for yourself or the leaders in your business, please get in touch.