By now you know that in my first book, the 1988 original “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff PS: It’s All Small Stuff,” I detailed an approach to living based on a simple belief that’s become the mantra of thousands of clients I’ve coached and power-mentored over the past four decades. The belief is summed up in: “The link is what you think.”


You’ve heard it said many times that if you change your thoughts, you change your leadership skills, your personal relationships, your academic success, your athletic performance, your weight, your health—your life. That’s the power of your thinking. After all, as I’ll describe in more detail in my fourth book, “It’s ALL In Your Head™” the only obstacle that ever holds you from living your vision of success is ultimately the way you think. Even those who stop you, don’t stop you—unless you think they have.


So, along comes Harvard Business Review frequent contributor Erika Andersen, founding partner of Proteus International, who wrote Growing Great Employees, Being Strategic, Leading So People Will Follow, who supports this notion by illustrating how the inner narrative that leaders rely upon, will either support their advancement or inhibit their success.


I’ll unpack this mental toolkit by asking you a simple question. What is compassion? Google’s Chade-Meng Tan, in an interview in the recent Rotman Management Journal, points out that compassion is a set of thoughts, in fact, what neuroscience calls the “happiest state ever recorded.” The thoughts that compassion is anchored in include, “I feel for you,” “I understand you,” and “I want to help you.”


Tan argues that compassion, these beliefs in particular, are cognitive building blocks for what Jim Collins in his landmark book, Good to Great, calls “Level 5 Leaders.” These are leaders who have, among other successes, humility and ambition for the greater good – qualities that many CEO’s do not have. The first two beliefs of compassion create humility. The third belief, Tan notes, creates ambition for the greater good.


Leaders also need, according to Andersen, 1) aspiration, 2) accurate self-awareness, 3) curiosity, and 4) the strength to be vulnerable.


These leadership talents are also anchored in your head. Imagine thinking, “Who needs this?” Think that’d fuel enough aspiration and ambition to march forward? What if you believe (think), “Hey, I’m really good at this and in fact, I’m considered a top performer.” Don’t be so ready to believe what you think—what if in fact you are far from the top performer? Think this erroneous belief will propel you forward?

And what about thinking, “I don’t get what’s exciting about this new project—it’s totally dull and humdrum to me.” Think that might propel you forward? And what if you tell yourself (think), “I’ll never get this right, I feel like a major idiot—sure hope nobody asks me anything about this.” Think being so closed and protective will help you grow?


My question to you is, what else can you think instead of these negative, inaccurate and illogical beliefs? You see, if you aren’t equipped with Andersen’s “aspiration, self-awareness, curiosity and vulnerability,” you aren’t likely to grow in your leadership role. It’s your simple, unquestioned, erroneous beliefs that block your ability to develop these skills. Recognizing, rejecting and replacing them are essential.


To help you do just that, try this acronym: T.H.I.N.K. Ask yourself is what you are thinking entirely “true,” “helpful,” “inspirational,” “necessary,” and “kind to yourself”? If the answer is “no” to any or all of these prompts, such as the thoughts above, it’s time to listen to that alarm and reject and replace them with beliefs that meet the T.H.I.N.K. criteria.


Want more help with this? Contact me at for further accomplishment mentoring.

Leadership: It's ALL in Your Head

Leadership: It’s ALL in Your Head