Show up as a Leader: Identify and reframe limiting beliefs

Shutterstock / Alina Me
Shutterstock / Alina Me
Published On
Mar 15, 2022

I don’t know any leaders that wear a cape, sport a utility belt with boomerangs or have a sidekick. But some of their feats rate right up there with Superman, Batman and Spiderman. Being a leader is not about dressing up, cutting your hair or putting on a mask. How a leader shows up is not about appearance at all—it’s about actions.

While our brains allow us to solve problems, make decisions and read others’ emotions, this processing power can also cause us to get in our own way and hamper our ability to act as leaders.

What’s holding you back?

What beliefs, perceptions or attitudes hold you back? There are three areas to examine that will make a difference in how you show up as a leader.

The first thing to look at is false assumptions. You can describe false assumptions as all-or-nothing thinking, short-sighted thinking, focusing on the past or making hasty conclusions. If you are thinking with false assumptions, you may say things such as, “We would never win that bid,” “This has never worked in the past, so it won’t work this time,” or “The market is just too saturated to be successful.”

The second area is limiting perceptions. Limiting perceptions can be described as beliefs you have created that limit your success. “I’m not smart enough.” “I can’t trust others.” “I need to be in control.” “Conflict is bad.” While these beliefs may be deeply rooted, you can overcome them and achieve success through awareness and the will to improve.

The third area is false priorities. What priorities are you allowing to get in the way of your success? To identify some of your false priorities, ask yourself questions such as “Would I rather be ____ than successful?” Some of the responses for the blank might include right, liked, perfect, win or the hero. If we replace “be” with “get,” the response could be credit, attention, status or prestige. Regardless of the response, this simple question helps identify what may be getting in the way of your success.

Beyond limiting factors

As I said before, leadership is about actions. Of course, it would be great if we could just wake up each morning and say, “I’m going to be a great leader today.” Being a successful leader requires the willingness to make the necessary changes.

In the examples outlined above, the first step is realizing that some factors limit your success as a leader. Just like with false assumptions, this isn’t an all-or-nothing approach. When you identify a limiting factor, you are identifying one specific area that, with change, could have a significant impact on your success. It isn’t uncommon for leaders to identify more than one area to improve, but we encourage our clients to prioritize and work on one factor at a time.

Once the primary limiting factor has been identified, we get to work on a plan for improvement. The first part of the plan is to reframe each limiting belief. How can we put the negative into a positive light? Patrick Lencioni’s book, “The Five Temptations of a CEO,” offers a great example of reframing using a creative alternative. Lencioni reframes the temptation to choose certainty as seeking clarity. Leaders need to make tough decisions based on limited information. Seeking clarity to make the best decision would be a way to remove this mental roadblock. When we have the limiting belief reframed, we then work to form a new habit.

New habits can be formed in a variety of ways. Using techniques such as awareness, journaling, roleplaying, coaching and affirmations, you can develop a new habit that will allow you to show up better as a leader. For some, this step is the hardest. Limiting beliefs are often deeply ingrained in our brains. Like trying to change the grooves in a record, changing a habit can be monumental.

Therefore, our approach is to reframe the existing belief and create a new habit around the desired belief. The tendency to fall back into old habits, especially in times of stress, is easy. This is why we recommend using an executive coach or being part of a mastermind group that can support you and increase your likelihood of success.

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