People say great leaders are few and far between, but there’s a way to spot them in a crowd. They’re high-minded leaders who possess ten strong professional principles and treat employees under their authority with integrity, honor and respect. “We often obsess over external factors that can impact our businesses, but the reality is that it is the internal factors that make the difference between success and failure,” says Patrick Esposito, author of The Structure of Success: A Framework to Help Build your Business Better. “The structural components you use to operate your business will, ultimately, do more to drive positive outcomes and help you to manage risks and threats than most of the other decisions or actions you take in your business.”
Neuroscientists agree that paying attention to our internal state of mind keeps us focused on what’s important on the outside. Business consultants and clinicians have identified ten habits of high-minded leaders. In The One Truth: Elevate Your Mind, Unlock Your Power, Heal Your Soul, author and consultant Jon Gordon explains how we can elevate ourselves into a higher state of mind that includes such C words as clarity and confidence.
The Ten C’s Of High-Minded Leaders
- Curiosity versus judgment: Leading with more curiosity and less snap judgments of employees under their authority, yielding deeper insights for possibilities and solutions. Toxic leadership harbors blame and snap judgments in which employees are seen as targets instead of renewable resources. Scott Shigeoka, author of Seek: How Curiosity Can Transform Your Life and Change the World, says the reason rising polarization and social isolation are defining the workplace lies within each one of us: a decline in our curiosity. We can reverse the trend if each of us learns how to tap curiosity’s capacity for connection, healing and growth. Curious leaders ask more questions, make fewer decision-making errors, are more innovative and have better team performance.
- Calm versus anxiety: Leading with an unmistakable feeling of calm and loss of the ability to worry. According to the authors of Deliberate Calm: How to Learn and Lead in a Volatile World, today’s workplace challenges and uncertainty can strike fear in the hearts of leaders, causing them to stick with what they know instead of calmly going outside of their comfort zones to stay ahead of the curve. A calm workplace starts with cool-headed leaders who advocate for a culture of emotional safety and absence of fear and worry that promote creative leadership, job engagement and productivity as well as the company’s bottom line.
- Clarity versus confusion: Leading with an overwhelming clear-mindedness and sense of direction. The book Stop Overthinking describes how a cluttered mind can blind clarity and lead to confusion. Clarity within an organization starts with clear-minded leaders who can look beyond the short term and see the bigger picture. They are skilled at communicating expectations and making sure employees know their roles, and they stay abreast of trending reports and research and understand obstacles in recruiting and retention measures.
- Connection versus versus isolation: Leading with a satisfying connection with your team, coworkers and yourself. One-sided communication and iron-fisted management styles perpetuate isolation between leaders and employees—the biggest complaint from the American workforce. High-minded leaders unite employees and create cultures where employees enjoy satisfying connections with company leaders versus isolation from them, where people work together to produce high-quality outcomes. They build connections among employees—marked by mutual regard, trust and active engagement—increase the effectiveness of the organization, according to Jane Dutton, author of Energize Your Workplace: How to Create and Sustain High-Quality Connections at Work. Leaders check in with employees to keep them in the loop, let them know they belong and keep them connected to the company.
- Compassion versus cold-heartedness: Leading with compassion for subordinates, colleagues and yourself. In Compassionate Leadership, the authors state that leaders are called upon to deliver negative feedback, make difficult choices that disappoint employees and in some cases lay workers off. It’s always important to balance compassion for employees with the hard tasks of getting the job done effectively. Top down compassionate leadership is the glue that holds a company together. High-minded leaders make employees feel heard and cared about and treat them with respect, resulting in higher job engagement, less turnover and greater loyalty.
- Confidence versus intimidation: Leading with a heightened ability to act from confidence instead of past or future fears. Toxic leaders undermine the confidence of their workers with hard-fisted control to get a bigger bang for the buck. Author Jon Gordon insists leaders can elevate their state of mind and overcome any challenge when they manage with more clarity and shift from fear to unshakeable confidence. High-minded leaders take the position of listener and facilitator, not talker and intimidator. They show confidence in employees by welcoming feedback and encouraging work autonomy.
- Courage versus fear: Leading with the courage to stick your neck out and welcome uncertain situations without making them happen. John Miller, author of Playing It Safe Sucks, stresses the danger of playing it safe and the importance of the courage to come up with “Big Ideas,” courage to defend those ideas from naysayers and skeptics and courage to launch them into “a cynical, attention-starved marketplace.” High-minded leaders take professional risks and break old molds. They ask what edge they can go to or what bridge they can jump off to sprout their wings, build the company and boost profitability.
- Creativity versus stagnation: Leading with frequent bursts of creativity without constraints. Hard-fisted leaders put more emphasis on the outcome than on the process, which leads to narrow focus, missed opportunities and loss of creative possibilities. High-minded leaders practice “personalization” and “customization” in remote, hybrid and in-office work. They draw out creativity through brainstorming, soliciting employee ideas and asking questions that stimulate critical thinking—all of which instill a sense of ownership, team spirit, greater productivity and a longer employment history. In Herding Tigers: Be the Leader That Creative People Need, author Todd Henry states that creative leaders lead by influence instead of control, and they empower teams to take bold creative risks.
- Comedy versus drama: Leading with the ability to let go and engage in humor, laughter and lightheartedness. Toxic work cultures consider fun and laughter frivolous wastes of time and thumb their noses at lightheartedness. But high-minded leaders believe work can be both serious and fun. They understand that a joke, funny things your kids do or a silly story that happened over the weekend are essential ingredients baked into productivity with the potential to build company morale. In Managing to Have Fun, author Matt Weinstein explains how mixing business with fun at work can motivate employees, inspire coworkers and boost the bottom line.
- Celebration versus exhaustion: Leading with a heightened sense of unrestrained joy and appreciation for life. Hard-fisted leaders hold worker noses to the grindstone and consider celebrations a distraction from productivity. High-minded leaders celebrate important moments with staff and create togetherness so employees feel connected to one another and to the company as a whole. “A psychologically safe workplace is one that recognizes the whole human and celebrates its humans for moments that go beyond the workplace,” according to Dr. Meisha-ann Martin, Workhuman’s senior director of people analytics. “A Gallup-Workhuman study found that, when an employer recognizes life events and work milestones, employees are three times as likely to strongly agree that their organization cares about their well-being.”
Under high-minded leaders who oversee employees with the ten C’s, everybody wins. Workers are happier, more engaged and productive. Plus, leaders get higher performance ratings, and the company’s profitability thrives.