Most leaders agree that developing leadership potential in their direct reports is important. I think that connecting people with their potential is the most important aspect of a leader’s role, and your mindset matters.

Here are 10 key mindset principles to consider when developing leadership in others:

  1. No one is broken. There is no wrong or right – just what works. Remain non-judgmental.
  2. Look for the positive intention. Separating observable behaviours from the intentions that drive them provides insight and greater scope to influence and develop others. Look for the positive intention behind the behavior.
  3. What you expect is what you get. Consider the ‘Pygmalion effect’ – when we expect a leader to rise to the challenge of a new role, and we support them to do so, they will.
  4. It’s okay to not have all the answers. People are complex and there will always be some behaviours you do not understand. Your role is to support the exploration. Resist offering solutions and filling the silence.
  5. They are responsible. There will be effort on your part to support your direct report, however your efforts should not exceed their efforts!
  6. Listen and listen some more. Listening is critical and sometimes allowing the person to be heard is all that is needed to begin the development journey. Listen for what is not said as well as what is said.
  7. Conscious use of questions. Questions are an art form. Articulate, open questions have the potential to unleash insightful conversations.
  8. Reinforce positive behaviour When we want to encourage a particular behaviour, we need to identify and reward that. (See my blog on rewarding approximations.)
  9. Get your direct report to decide. The decision to act is the first step on any journey. People develop faster when they take responsibility for their own development.
  10. Rome wasn’t built in a day. There is a lot going on in the brain of someone making a change and they need your ongoing support.

Which of these mindset principles could make the biggest positive impact for you and your people? Which one will be the most challenging for you?

Liked this?? This blog is an edited extract from my new book ‘Developing Direct Reports: Taking the guesswork out of leading leaders‘ due out in July. 

Written for leaders who lead leaders, this book addresses the 12 most common, globally recognised leadership derailers, and will help you to:

  • understand what’s really driving the dysfunctional behaviours you observe
  • become a catalyst for behaviour change that sticks
  • take the guesswork out of developing your direct reports

Together with my co-authors Anneli Blundell and Belinda Cohen, I look forward to sharing more with you over the coming months.


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