Leading Blog


The 3 Mental Qualities of Great Leaders

Mind of Leader

EADERSHIP BEGINS in the mind. To lead effectively we must understand what is going on inside of us, so that we can lead ourselves. Only when we have developed a consistent habit of doing that can we then better understand and lead others and then collectively our teams and organizations.

In The Mind of the Leader, authors Rasmus Hougaard and Jaqueline Carter of the Potential Project, report that there are three mental qualities that stand out as being foundational for leaders today: Mindfulness, Selflessness, and Compassion. They call it MSC Leadership. All three work together and enrich the others.

MSC Leadership


Mindfulness is about managing your attention and in turn managing your thoughts. Mindfulness enables us to respond to our circumstances instead of reacting. The two key qualities of mindfulness are focus and awareness. These two qualities “help us to be mentally agile and effective.” “As your mindfulness increases, your perception of ‘self’ starts to change. More specifically, a stronger sense of selfless confidence arises, helping you develop the second quality of MSC Leadership: selflessness.


They describe selflessness as “the wisdom of getting out of your own way, the way of your people, and the way of your organization to unleash the natural flow of energy that people bring to work. Selflessness combines strong self-confidence with a humble intention to be of service.” It is interesting the way they put that.

Selflessness is often thought of as weak by the uninitiated. It is important that selflessness is combined with self-confidence. You become an enabler. “You are not worried about being taken advantage of, because you have the confidence to speak up for yourself if needed. At the same time, you’re not driven by your own interests. You have a strong focus on the well-being of your people and your organization.”

This is a tough one for many leaders. According to a study completed at the University of California, Berkley, “when many leaders start to feel powerful, their more benevolent qualities start to decline. Leaders are three times more likely than lower-level employees to interrupt coworkers, multitask during meetings, raise their voices, and say insulting things.” Also, they are more likely to be rude, selfish, and unethical. We have seen many leaders that think they are above the mores of everyone else. It’s not easy to keep yourself in perspective. Mindfulness plays a big part in that.

As we become more selfless, “we naturally begin attending more to other people: we show more interest in them and offer more care. In this way, compassion arises as a natural outgrowth of selflessness.”


Compassion is benevolent leadership. “It’s the ability to understand others’ perspectives and use that as a catalyst for supportive action.” Compasion combines with wisdom. Wisdom gives compassion a compass so that choices can be made that are thoughtful and holistic.

A compassionate organizational culture “supports positive intentions toward others, and at the same time instills the wisdom and professionalism in everyone to make tough choices. This includes sometimes doing things that are difficult bit will benefit the culture and the organization in the long term.”

MSC Leadership begins with you—inwardly—and then flows outward to your people and then your organizational culture as a whole. “It requires that we take an unflinching look at ourselves, at how we interact with our people, and at how our organizations operate.” The Mind of the Leader looks at this whole process and provides practical methods to apply each of these three qualities of mind to your leadership. This book provides a well-articulated and comprehensive look at these essential qualities of leadership.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:10 PM
| Comments (0) | This post is about Leadership Development



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