Does Your Leadership Mindset Create Success?

by Alli Polin on August 19, 2014

Does your leadership mindset inspire greatness?

Over the past months, I’ve noticed a trend in the classroom, at the office and around the town: There is an assumption that people need to be filled up to reach success instead of built up to create success.  It’s led me to wonder, are most people simply filling holes or building mountains?  Do they realize that their leadership mindset is at the heart of everything they do and say?

I have no doubt, we are all capable of great things.  The trick is believing that greatness is possible and putting aside saboteurs to embrace our full potential.  Still, I see daily what happens when someone believes in brokenness, adequacy, and practicality over championing strengths.  They focus what’s missing and instead of building a bridge based on gifts, they build precarious structures that are held up on the shoulders of people that lean into their mediocrity and sense of inadequacy.

Have You Seen These People Filling Holes?  

All they see are the holes that need to be plugged and are exhausting themselves patching and filling day in, day out.  Their leadership mindset is focused on gaps and not greatness. 

The Teacher 

Starts with an assumption that his kids are lacking in ability and no matter how much a child excels, through the lens of “less than,” they’ll always be average at best, and incapable at worst.

The Parent

Always telling people, “my child will never be a great reader and that’s OK with me.” That’s more about them than their child, isn’t it?  Where is the room to learn and grow?

The Manager

Constantly lamenting that they’re the only one that knows how to do the job right.  Moaning that it will take more effort to teach someone than to just do it themselves.

The Leader

They are the only one speaking at meetings, demand final sign off on every important document and initiative, and is working 24/7 to make up for all of the “idiots” on the team.

leadership mindset focused on gaps or fosters greatness

Have You Seen These People Building Mountains?  

They see people who are capable, caring and committed and don’t linger on the depth of what’s missing.  Their leadership mindset is focused on strengths and on building mountains where people can see further and go farther.  

The Teacher

She looks through the darkness and notices the light bulbs that go on and helps them to shine even more brightly.  Helping students make the leap from strength to new strength, she not only see someone who is capable, she also helps her students own their gifts.

The Parent

Always saying, “You can do it! I believe in you!” even when their child does not believe in themselves. The best part is they are not empty words, but truly and deeply felt, fully knowing their child has what it takes to persevere, practice, learn and create success.

The Manager

Their office is usually empty because they are out on the floor with the team.  They regularly coach and mentor team members knowing that their shared success will be a part of their legacy.

The Leader

“That’s a great idea,” they say.  “Now go run with it.”  Trusting, empowering and present are the hallmarks of their leadership style.  They know that the more people who are passionately committed and engaged in building the mountain, the higher will go.


Ask Yourself:

What if the starting assumption was we are all naturally creative, resourceful and whole?

Why do we focus on weakness and so often ignore strength?

What is your default?  Holes or mountains?

What’s your leadership mindset?  What will you do today to help build a mountain? 

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Joy Guthrie August 19, 2014 at 8:54 am

“I believe in you” is such a powerful phrase to give someone. It truly does make a difference, not only in that person’s view of himself; but, also in how you begin to think about that person (even if you truly believed it when you said it the first time). A really great post, Alli. Thank you so much for sharing.


Alli Polin August 19, 2014 at 11:41 pm

Four powerful words that can truly light a spark. It’s true, when you decide to believe in someone, really truly, you do change the way you see them, their choices and abilities.

Always appreciate your feedback and insights, Joy! Thank you!


Bill Benoist August 19, 2014 at 9:42 am

I love the analogy between filling holes and building mountains. When we are filling holes, we are often judging others. Unfortunately, we often judge others based upon how we judge ourselves.


Alli Polin August 19, 2014 at 11:42 pm

Filling holes is definitely filled with judgment, I agree. When you see someone as less than… it kinda means you see yourself as better than. That’s why change starts with each one of us and not outside of us.

Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom, Bill!


LaRae Quy August 19, 2014 at 10:42 am

This post is right up my ally, Alli :-))))

Love the way you encourage folks to do great things right where they are, instead of making excuses or hoping for different circumstances.

This is wonderful “They focus what’s missing and instead of building a bridge based on gifts, they build precarious structures that are held up on the shoulders of people that lean into their mediocrity and sense of inadequacy.”

So true, and thanks so much for sharing!


Alli Polin August 19, 2014 at 11:47 pm

Mental toughness is all about mindset. Amazing how much our thoughts, perceptions and actions are tied together. Making the shift starts with awareness and continues with the choice to change!

Love that you help us do that 🙂

Thanks, LaRae!


Carl August 19, 2014 at 11:50 am

Tremendous post Alli,
I spent years working with kids and always believed there was a ‘key’ to everyone of them – my job was to find the key and unlock the potential I knew was there.
Same belief when working with adults – they just need the right environment, encouragement, and opportunity to reach their potential.

Very best regards,


Alli Polin August 19, 2014 at 11:48 pm

When I read your comment, Carl, I could not stop smiling. I absolutely love that there are leaders and teachers out there that see it as their job to find the key to unlock greatness in others. Everyone has one… just need to look a little harder to find some than others.

A sincere thanks!!



Terri Klass August 19, 2014 at 5:03 pm

It is so interesting how we spend so much time worrying about what we can’t do when we could be focusing on all of our assets and abilities.

I see this so much in my leadership classes where the participants will dwell on the negative parts of their jobs instead of harnessing their creative strengths. A good question to ask people to climb their mountain is: “How could you make this happen using a different approach?”

Love your metaphor, Alli – building mountains or filling holes?


Alli Polin August 19, 2014 at 11:50 pm

Can’t do’s make us feel so small – why choose to focus there when unleashing our gifts on the world not only enables us to make a positive difference but also live and work full-out.

Your question above shows me how much you believe in people and helping them to embrace their gifts. It says “I know you can do this and I trust you can find the path.”

Appreciate you!


Jon Mertz August 19, 2014 at 6:08 pm

Great way to view how we lead and how we can easily get stuck in a hole and bring many down with us. Mindset plays such a key role in being an effective leader, and it seems empathy is a skill to ensure we build and empower strengths. To really understand the unique capabilities of various team members, our empathy awareness needs to be in peak (no pun intended!) performance. Another great frame, Alli! Thanks. Jon


Alli Polin August 19, 2014 at 11:53 pm

Love that you’ve pointed out that not only do we dwell on the holes in others and try to fill ‘em up but so often it’s leaders that are the ones in the holes dragging people down.

Empathy is an aspect of leadership that truly does make an incredible difference. It takes us from leaders doing… to humans co-creating.

Many thanks to you, Jon for your insights!


Cynthia Bazin August 23, 2014 at 4:25 pm

Absolutely love this Alli! It’s amazing what happens when we look at the possibilities versus what is a challenge. Think positive, act positive and you will see amazing ACTIONS! Thanks for always putting out amazing content. You are a superstar my friend!


Alli Polin August 26, 2014 at 5:18 am

Oh my gosh this is a passion point for me – possibilities vs challenges. Positivity is critical helping people begin to believe that they truly can make the climb to the top of the mountain.

Many thanks to you and your incredibly contagious positivity!


Karin Hurt August 25, 2014 at 9:40 am

Leadership is always about the other person. When leaders get too stuck in their own assumptions, they will be stuck in filling holes mindset.


Alli Polin August 26, 2014 at 5:17 am

Very true, Karin. Also ineffective is when leaders convince themselves someone is a superstar and they can do no wrong. They stop helping that person grow…



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