The Mindset Shift All Great Leaders Make to Turn Conflict Into Cooperation

If you have ever been in a leadership position, then you know your primary challenge is keeping the team working toward the same goal, together.

Where so many leaders fall short is, they begin to see themselves as separate. It’s them, and then the team. They’re the leader, and the rest of the people are the ones who do what they say.

One of the best books on leadership I’ve ever read was Leadership and Self-Deception by The Arbinger Institute. Unlike most self-development books, the lessons of leadership were left for the reader to discover on their own by watching scenes unfold between a room full of members at a company. Through their conversations, the lessons emerged naturally.

The Outward Mindset, also by The Arbinger Institute, used a similar storytelling technique to show how important it is for a leader to see themselves as a member of the team — not the “leader” of it.

Great leaders lead by example.

The problem is that everyone knows it — and yet, many leaders still struggle to truly see themselves as part of their own group.


The reason is because their mindset is to still put themselves before the rest.

Sure, you can be a leader by doing the things nobody else wants to do — and leading by example.

Or you can be a leader by always being the most vocal. Or you can be leader by being the most ambitious one of the group.But inevitably, a conflict will arise where your own “go-getter” mentality is the “solution”.

In fact, it ends up being the opposite of the solution, and could potentially stir more conflict.

Leadership is difficult because it means truly understanding, on an emotional level, the people around you.

Whether you are leading a team of two, or two hundred, you are still dealing with people.

And people have different wants and needs, different frequencies and thresholds for certain types of emotion. If you only operate in one mode of emotion, you will attract some people and repel others.

Reason being: Not everyone operates the same way.

The Outward Mindset reminded me of the value in taking the time to really understand someone emotionally. What are their emotional wants and needs?

Some people are OK with being constantly told how to improve, with little to no validation for what they do right.
Some people are the complete opposite and need a lot of positive validation in other to receive any sort of critique.

This kind of awareness is crucial to properly motivating team members.

They don’t all speak the same language.

The mindset shift that needs to occur is to see yourself as secondary.

Your own emotional needs (which are primarily based within one’s ego) come second to the people you are working with.

As a leader, it can be very easy to bark things to meet your own needs first. And sometimes, the situation calls for that — understandably so. But do realize that in making that choice, you are choosing to discount the other people’s own emotional needs. You are putting yourself (inward) ahead of the other (outward).

Leadership is an art.

Sometimes, that’s forgotten.

As one of my mentors would say:

“Leadership is not your title, or the position you hold. Leadership is the way you carry yourself and interact with others. It’s not a hat you take on and off. It’s who you are.”

This article originally appeared on Inc. Magazine.

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