It’s no surprise that leading teams to produce exceptional results and endure through challenges consistently over time requires mental toughness. Here are some basic principles about mental toughness and the role that leaders play in building mentally tough people and teams.
Read the brief descriptions below, then ask yourself: “Am I a mentally tough leader? Is my team mentally tough? What actions should I take to improve my effectiveness as a leader? What actions should I take to strengthen the capability of my team?”
The key characteristics of physical capability provide insight into the key characteristics of mental capability. Physical capability is characterized by strength, endurance, flexibility, and resilience. Maximum physical capability occurs when our muscles and connective tissue are strong, flexible, resilient, and have stamina. These four dimensions are also the primary attributes of mental and emotional capability—or what is often called “mental toughness” or “emotional intelligence.”
- Mental strength is the ability to focus your mental energy on your goals and action plan. It’s also the ability to harness your emotions to make them work for you, and withstand against disruptive feelings.
- Mental endurance is the ability to sustain your focus, concentration, and positive attitude over time.
- Mental flexibility is the ability to quickly create the mindset that’s required for the action you need to take. Different situations call for different mindsets and different emotional energy.
- Mental resilience is the ability to navigate adversity and bounce back from experiences of disappointment, difficulty, even loss.
It is important to recognize that the influence of leaders has a profound impact on the mental state of the people on a team. Leaders set the tone for their team in all four dimensions of mental toughness. If the leader lacks mental strength, the team will tend to get distracted and not give its best effort to achieving the goals. If the leader lacks mental endurance, the team will tend to lose focus and energy over time. If the leader lacks mental flexibility, the team will tend to react defensively. And if the leader lacks mental resilience, the team will be easily discouraged by the setbacks and obstacles it will inevitably experience.
By contrast, successful leaders are mentally tough… they are effective and capable in all four dimensions. As a result, so are their people. Effective leaders build and sustain a mentally tough culture. They accomplish this through modeling mental toughness, teaching mental toughness, coaching and mentoring, and a deep commitment to their own personal and professional growth.