Of all the challenges you face as a leader, one of the most intense is knowing how to win the battle that goes on in your head.
Leadership is above all a mental (and therefore spiritual) game.
You can have all the hard skill sets in the world—a fantastic education, tremendous insight, wisdom, the ability to rally a team, to build things and to get things done—but if you don’t know how to deal with the voices in your head, you can go down in defeat.
Sometimes you don’t need anyone to take you out of leadership. You’re perfectly capable of doing it yourself, just by listening to the voices in your head.
You know what I mean, the voices that say:
You’re not up for this.
What’s the point?
You’re not doing a great job.
Just do something else with your life…it will be easier.
This doesn’t really matter.
Most of us have a series of messages (like these) that play back over and over again in our mind, like a mixed tape. Yours may be similar or a bit different, but they’re there.
Sadly, too many of the voices in your head try to defeat what God wants to accomplish in you and through you.
Win the battle in your head, and you can win the battle in leadership. Lose it, and you can lose everything.
So how do you ultimately win? Here are 6 things that have helped me as a leader.
1. Win the battle by calling an audible
The problem most of us experience with the battle in our heads is that it’s been going on for so long, we hear the negative voices as a kind of white noise.
When I’m struggling with thoughts in my head that aren’t helpful and can’t get clarity, I call an audible. I name (sometimes out loud) the reality that all the actual opposition I’m facing is in my head.
Personally, I find by saying something as simple as “wait…this is ALL IN MY HEAD” can be tremendously clarifying.
It’s not real…not yet. I’m just thinking it.
And—remember this—the stuff that’s in your head is only as real as you let it become.
It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution, but it’s a great starting point.
2. Stop focusing on yourself
I often find when I’m losing the battle in my head that I’m focusing on myself, not on the mission.
Self-focus is helpful when it’s tied to self-awareness, and you’re confessing, changing, building or growing as a leader. Beyond that, it’s increasingly less productive.
Self-focus beyond self-awareness as a leader becomes selfish.
So ask yourself: is my self-focus helping me or hurting me? Am I growing as a leader, or am I just finding a new rut to get stuck in?
If your self-focus is not productive, drop it. Because selfishness is never productive in leadership.
You know this to be true: the selfish leader is rarely self-aware, and the self-aware leader is rarely selfish.