Good Leaders Make Us Believe - A 'Leadership Step by Step' Exercise

Why leaders need to identify the beliefs of their people in order to be the most effective.

Last Updated on Nov 30, 2021 · 3 min read
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This mini essay is the fourth exercise on the 'Leadership Step by Step' book. It challenges the reader to identify their own beliefs, as a step to identify which are productive, which are leading us astray, to later use, or change, them to our advantage. I've written previously about this book here.

Have you ever heard of the Stonecutter Parable?

A passerby saw three workers cutting stones in a quarry. Though they were doing similar work, one looked unhappy, another looked content, and the third looked overjoyed. The passerby asked them what they were doing.

The unhappy stonecutter replied, “I’m doing what it takes to make a living.”

The content one answered, “I am a stonemason practicing my craft.”

The overjoyed one looked up with a visionary glance and said, “I am building the greatest cathedral in the land.”

I guess the moral of the story is that different beliefs can be right about the same environment and conditions, but have different degrees of effectiveness for those holding them. So, you might see how helpful it might be to identify what we believe in, as we might just be cutting stones to make a living.

A belief is not set in stone. It's just happens to be what our brain thinks of what is real at that moment, with the slight "feature" that it tends to oversimplify things a bit.

How to use beliefs effectively

I especially liked this quote from the book:

Leading effectively often means working with beliefs more than with facts and logic. What you consider irrefutable facts often turn out to be beliefs.

This is decisive. We need to come to the realization that we can change our beliefs if, for example, we understand that our perception of the environment is not the actual environment. Being afraid of public speaking is a perception of the public and doesn’t reflect the actual public that is probably rooting for our success and most certainly doesn’t want to attack us violently.

This is an eye-opener. How many of our decisions and behaviors are based on these inaccurate beliefs? My guess is way more than we can count, and that is why this exercise is challenging us to write “dozens” of our beliefs. It's pushing us to look at them and try to see their effect on our lives and if there is something we could change for our gain.

20 things I believe in

I didn't write dozens but I want to share my favorite 20. I left out those I felt were not important (which is maybe a mistake, those are probably blind spots), those too personal to share on the Internet, or those that I couldn’t identify as beliefs.

  • No one ever wasted time learning.
  • We have the time we need to do what we want if we show up.
  • Complaining (even when justified) makes people worse at life.
  • Taking responsibility (even without reason) makes people better at life.
  • If both of you want to have kids someday, and there are no health reasons against it, you'll probably feel you waited too long once you have them.
  • Some "secrets" of your favorite topics will only reveal themselves when you write about them.
  • Conversations are better when you let people finish what they are saying instead of interrupting with your perfect response.
  • Time is our most precious resource.
  • It's better to waste a day doing nothing than not waste it doing something against our will.
  • Creating, exploring, and loving are the noblest endeavors.
  • Any team can get results, but only with good leadership can it get the best results.
  • Leadership is just the behaviors that keep a team safe and moving towards an objective.
  • Hard problems become easier with the number of walks you take while solving them.
  • Skills that should be taught at school: cooking, writing, public speaking, personal finance, negotiation, and leadership.
  • Always go for that experiment if the worst it can happen is you learn something.
  • The most valuable feedback comes from others' behaviors that make us uncomfortable. It's probably just them doing something that we are not very good at or something we know we should be doing more.
  • If a given action, in the worst-case scenario, can only affect you it shouldn't be illegal.
  • Restaurants with pictures on the menus are not where you want to eat.
  • We are in the good old times and don’t notice it.
  • I can (always) do better.

If you enjoyed this, there are many others to come.

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