Exceptional Leaders rewrite the negative scripts that have the power to beat them down and leave them feeling defeated.
Even the people who were fortunate enough to have positive parents or guardians in their lives, who never heard a comment from an adult that left them feeling dumb, stupid or incapable; even these people went through puberty. Few were fortunate enough to escape the terror of zits, crooked teeth, demeaning nicknames, wearing the unacceptable outfit, the outdated brand, or family member who was a total embarrassment.
It is simply far too easy to learn that “I’m not okay unless ‘they’ approve of me.” Of course “they” can be anyone from classmates, teachers, parents, friends, and can grow to include colleagues, bosses, spouses and children.
It is true that approval from others can certainly shape our behavior. To demonstrate this, a professor divided his class in to three groups. Each group was given an assignment to get their rats through the maze as fast as possible. When giving the instructions to the students, he told the first group that their rats had been of really low genetic qualities and wished them luck. The second group was told that their rats were your average run of the mill barn rats. The third group was told that their rats were bred for exceptionally high intelligence.
The results of the experiment are as you imagined. Those exceptional rats completed the maze in record time, far better that of the other two groups. It was only after the experiment was complete that the professor confessed to the students that there was no difference in their rats. The only difference was the perceptions of those conducting the experiment.
I believe something similar holds true for people. The approval or perceptions or judgment of others, especially leaders, can shape our behavior for the good or the bad. And if their message is one of criticism, there’s usually enough truth to these messages reinforce the scripts we play in our heads and that keep us trapped.
However, exceptional leaders do not allow these messages to form the basis of their self-image, nor to they allow themselves to become prisoners of their mistakes and failures. They take a more objective look at themselves. While they are cognizant of their mistakes and failures, they chose to maintain a balanced focus on their accomplishments and successes. This is what keeps them humble, confident and optimistic.
Interestingly enough, these exceptional leaders also realize that the perceptions they hold of others can have an incredible impact on how those folks see themselves and on how they perform.
So rather than focusing on mistakes and failures, exceptional leaders view themselves and others from their strengths, their potential and their capabilities, often seeing them as even more capable than they see themselves. They challenge themselves and others to do beyond what they believe the can. And more often than not they and the people under their leadership rise to the occasion, often surprising themselves, and even more grateful that an Exceptional Leader believed in them and challenged them to excel.