How Top Leaders Successfully Navigate Change (Part V): Self-Management

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A paradox of top leaders is that they must steadily sustain themselves in rapidly changing times.  Potential, without sustained effort, will never fully manifest.

Many cite resilience as a means to respond to the accelerating pace of change in business.  This focuses more on surviving failure rather than maintaining energy over inevitable ups and downs.  And, many successful leaders see setbacks not as failures, but as opportunities for greater success. 

So, how does a leader maintain? 

Research identifies several key characteristics to sustain and renew motivation over time: 

  • Ongoing refocusing: Finding ways to keep bringing your eyes back to the prize. The first popular version of Windows took eight years to develop. No one can stay focused continuously that long, but one can set up reinforcers outside oneself to remind and refocus repeatedly. 

  • Attributing failure properly: Do you attribute failure to your own enduring lack of ability or to the nature of this situation today? Martin Seligman found that salespeople attribute failure externally to a specific time, in a specific place (e.g., “this client didn’t want to buy today”). We find that leaders not only do that, but also own the responsibility (not blame) to tackle failures. 

  • Poking your motives: Setting up means to push your own buttons. Achievement-motivated people set goals to track improvement; Influence-motivated people look for impact on others. 

When dealing with rapid change and the need to move quickly, keeping yourself positive, focused, and energized will enable you to overcome the inevitable barriers of life and fully manifest your potential. 

We help leaders tackle this through our approach to setting “big goals,” CEO-level aspirations, with a stepwise plan supported by a network of reinforcers: mentors, peers, and measurement. Our participants have accomplished those goals at a rate of four to eight times higher than other executive development programs. Get a glimpse of how we do it at 

Reference: Seligman, Martin (1990, 1998, 2006). Learned Optimism. 

Marietta BryantComment