Leadership mindset – The Crux

Developing the right leadership mindset | blog 3 of 10


The second part of my 8 Point Plan is The Crux.

And no, we’re not talking Harry Potter here. The ‘crux’ of anything is the nub, the root, the central piece on which everything is built, and without which everything will collapse.

Hopefully this gives you a sense of the critical importance of this point in the 8 Point Plan. They’re covered in detail in our ‘Liberating Leadership’ programme  and I’m going to give you a flavour here.

Big autumn oak with red leaves on a blue sky background. The Crux = developing the right leadership mindsetSetting the ground rules

The crux of being a high performing leader has a couple of elements. First it is vital, as a leader you set your vision and ground rules around behaviour.

Your vision sets out your purpose, why you are here, which comes from the heart. Do whatever work you need to do to make this really clear.

  • What value do you want to add as leader of this team?
  • What difference are you going to make to this organisation?

Ground rules are needed to guide people in how to achieve your vision. What kind of behaviour you will allow? What kind of behaviour is expected? What will happen if a person can’t work within these parameters?

Setting your vision and the ground rules upfront are so crucial, but it’s a principle many leaders fail to do clearly enough. Imagine you are the pilot of a plane. You do your preparation before you take off. You check current and future weather conditions, equipment, fuel, team and many other things. Only when you have done all your checks are you ‘cleared’ for take-off.

We have observed that only the high performing leaders in the research had this kind of rigour in their planning.

When you’ve set your vision and established the ground rules, it will make the rest of the leadership process so much easier in terms of being able to give strong, clear feedback and keeping your team motivated and engaged. You’ll be half way cleared for take-off, and you’ll be ready for the second part of the Crux, which is sorting out your mindset.

The Critical Leadership Mindset – getting the balance right

Having set your vision and ground rules, the second vital element of The Crux is to do with your leadership mindset.

Two things tend to happen for leaders. See which camp you fall in.


  • You try to be everyone’s friend and end up doing all the work yourself.

Or you do the exact opposite and

  • Push people like you do yourself and get frustrated with them when they can’t keep up.

Every leader is guilty of doing too much of one or the other. In the first instance you are giving too much Support, and in the second instance too much Challenge.

This critical leadership mindset then is to operate with High Challenge and High Support. And getting the perfect balance of these two extremes is the sweet spot for leaders. Your personality type will tend to dictate which one you use more.

As a leader, being too kind suggests you might hold back from commenting on mistakes and just correct things yourself. You might work late to finish the work, allowing your people to go early. Then you start resenting them!

Being too cruel, on other hand, is extremely unkind. Here the leader is constantly criticising what their people are doing. They might have a hire and fire mentality. They may set extreme goals which are impossible for the person to achieve. This can be very demotivating.

The leadership mindset of High Challenge and High Support is the golden thread which weaves through the leader’s journey, supporting the other elements in the 8-point plan. We will keep referring to it as we go along, because it’s so very important.

Striking the balance right is critical but not always easy to do, until you start paying attention to it.

“It is the combination of Challenge and Support – the both/and principle – which really matters.”

So how do you know if you’ve got it?

The aim is to have High Challenge and High Support in powerful and equal combination. Too much of one or the other will lead to a state where people are not achieving their full potential, when the team falls short of being high performing, where you as leader are not pushing people to be the best they can be. Too much challenge would mean you are simply pushing them, too much support means you are not pushing them at all.


In the next post we’ll have look at the options and you can decide what your leadership mindset is like.


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