[Today’s post is an alternative introduction to my series on beliefs and how to change them. It gives a different, more team-oriented approach.]
A major tool of leadership is setting the common beliefs and models of your team. Some examples:
- The head of a corporation may decide that the company’s highest priority is product quality when it used to be customer service. Or may decide it is a consumer electronics company instead of a business-to-business company.
- The coach of a sports team may decide the team is a defensive team where it used to be offensive and before that it fed the ball to its star player.
- A person in a relationship may decide love means understanding and supporting their significant other where they used to think love meant sacrificing their happiness for the others’.
- A civil rights leader may decide that being allowed to share a lunch counter or classroom for their child with anyone they choose is a basic human right a government should guarantee.
- An entrepreneur may decide private companies can fly people to the moon better than any government.
These are all examples of someone changing beliefs by themselves, first in themselves, then in their teams.
Great leaders’ greatness comes in large part from their ability to influence others to adopt their beliefs, which means having them understand the new belief improves their lives more than the old one, which means the leader knowing that improvement, which means leaders have to adopt new beliefs themselves.
In other words, leadership requires changing others’ beliefs, which requires being able to change your own beliefs.
If you want your spouse to understand and support you, it helps for them to believe that understanding and supporting someone else (you) helps themselves. If you don’t believe that, you’ll have a hard time persuading them. If you do believe understanding and supporting others helps you, you’ll start doing it. Then you can communicate what you know and influence them.
There’s more to the connection between influencing beliefs and leadership than just what I’m describing, but I’m describing a necessary part. Without it you can’t lead beyond where people’s current beliefs already overlap your leadership goals.
If you do it, then you can lead people effectively. To get your spouse to understand and support you, you’ll start understanding and supporting your spouse. If you don’t — that is, if you believe, say, that understanding and supporting your spouse will lead them to take advantage of you, why would you expect them to understand and support you? The more they understand you the more they’ll find you expect their behavior will lead you to take advantage of them.
If you believe something counterproductive to your goals, you better change your beliefs.
Think you can’t change your beliefs? Think again. Leaders change people’s beliefs. George Washington believed he could beat the British. So did Gandhi. Do you think many people in their times did? Not likely. Do you think anyone before them did? Hardly, because no one else did. Few even tried. But they changed enough others’ beliefs that they succeeded.
Do you want to lead like them? Even remotely? Do you want better relationships at work? At home? With your friends?
If so, you need to change your beliefs to ones more productive to your goals.
You can change your beliefs.
Years ago I decided to figure out which of my goals were counterproductive and replace them with more productive ones. It was hard at first, mainly because I didn’t think people could change their beliefs. You may be thinking something similar, like your beliefs are right, meaning other beliefs are wrong. Why should you change them? Why put lipstick on a pig?
Because if you think your beliefs have no flaws, you’re misguided. All beliefs have flaws, including yours. Scrutinize yours like you scrutinize others and you’ll see. If you don’t change them you’ll get the same results you always have. If you don’t want to improve your life, don’t change your beliefs.
I’m not saying think or behaveÂ positively. Personally I can’t stand when people talk about having moreÂ positive beliefs or behavior. I propose a goal of moreÂ productive beliefs — productive based on your goals, hopes, dreams, and beliefs.
That multiple-year process worked. Anyone who knew me then and today will agree I’ve improved my life and lead others more effectively.
Why do it? Because it works — to improve your life and to influence others.