Without thinking, what immediately comes to your mind when you hear the word “threat?” Fear, worry, uncertainty?
An evolutionary characteristic deeply ingrained in your psyche to protect you against a perceived threat – otherwise known as fight or flight, has served humankind well over the centuries preserving at times our very survival.
Enabling us to avoid dangerous situations in the distant past such as unwanted confrontations with predators, fight or flight is a default mechanism of the mind that continues to click in automatically even today. In other words, and within a split second, your mind perceives a threat, and your emotions kick in shaping not only your perception but reactions in real time.
Hijacking Your MindLiving in a politically charged volatile world in which there are economic uncertainties, unsettling societal changes and technological advances that dramatically alter the workforce landscape you might be hard-pressed to view what is happening today without being adversely impacted. However, a change in perception is necessary if you hope to understand, adapt, and respond as a leader effectively.
I am not suggesting that you mute the default mechanism or automatically start to look at every threat as a potentially wonderful experience, far from it. What I am saying is that you must take a step back to challenge and where appropriate, modify your fight or flight response to one governed by understanding and adaptation. In other words, you challenge your default thinking so that even though you cannot control the external circumstance of your life, you can control your response by not allowing your default thinking to hijack your present or “open” mind.
When I talk about not allowing your default mind to hijack your open mind, I am saying that you need to recognize how your pre-programming impacts your thought process, and then adjust your thinking based on the here and now. Keeping an open mind means that what was a threat or potential threat in the past should not always represent a threat in the present.
Even if there is a bonafide threat, is that necessarily a bad thing? Are all threats bad? Can a threat represent a new and exciting opportunity as opposed to an adversarial experience with an undesirable outcome?
Necessity and Invention
A new or existing competitor starts to take away your clients. Are they a threat or have they created an opportunity for you to up your game and improve?
With the default mind, you may instinctively go into defense mode, making decisions based more on the fear of losing something (your customers), rather than a challenge or opportunity to improve.
Under the above circumstances, what type of leader would you be more willing to follow; one who fears losing something or one who sees the threat as an opportunity for improvement?
With the former, a leader is more likely to react in a way in which they try to protect what they have (playing not to lose) versus the latter where they see a proactive opportunity to grow and adapt (playing to win). It is safe to say that the leader who adapts is the one that will ultimately succeed.
Like the old saying about necessity being the mother of invention, to be in a position to adapt versus protect, the default mind must be modified so that when it senses a threat, it pauses and considers how the situation can be “turned” to its advantage.
More Words for Better Leadership
One can never underestimate the power of a single word. For example, how do you feel about confusion or dealing with the unknown?
Here is a quick exercise that I am sure you will find both interesting and revealing.
Step 1 – Take a piece of paper, and for each of the following words write down immediately what comes to mind.
Step 2 – Now go back to the first word and review what you have written. Then write something enabling/progressive about the word.
If you are not able to write down something enabling or expansive, then you will continue to be controlled by your default mind and the external circumstances that trigger it.
If you can write down something enabling, then you are on your way to harnessing your default mind so that you can begin seeing situations in a new and more productive light.