Your Most Valuable Leadership Tool

Throughout my twenty-five years in leadership roles, I have read several books, attended many conferences, and listened to countless podcasts. Many have offered a variety of tactics and tools to be a better leader. 

At a conference several years ago, a leader talked about how their organization was facing a budget crisis, so he called a group of leaders together to discuss the problem. He clearly articulated the problem, gave a motivational speech, turned the meeting over to his #2, and left the room. 

His #2 happened to have an MBA from Stanford and years of experience. 

I sat there thinking, “Cute story, but 99% of us in this room do not have the luxury of such a #2.”

There were principles from the story that were transferable, but that specific tactic was not available to me. 

In wading through all the tools and tactics, there is one tool that I believe is the key to every leader’s success. One tool that is readily available, taken for granted, and not taken care of as it should be. 

Your Mind.

Your mind is your most powerful leadership tool. 

In the 1956 recording The Strangest Secret, Earl Nightingale, frames it this way.: 

“Here is the key to success and the key to failure. We become what we think about.

Throughout all history, the great wise men and teachers, philosophers, and prophets have disagreed with one another on many different things. It is only on this one point that they are in complete and unanimous agreement.

Listen to what Marcus Aurelius, the great Roman Emperor, said, he said: “A man’s life is what his thoughts make of it.” . . . 

Ralph Waldo Emerson said this: “A man is what he thinks about all day long.”

William James said: “The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.” . . .

Dr. Norman Vincent Peale said this: “This is one of the greatest laws in the universe. Fervently do I wish I had discovered it as a very young man. It dawned upon me much later in life, and I found it to be the greatest discovery, if not my greatest discovery outside of my relationship to God. And the great law briefly and simply stated is that: If you think in negative terms, you will get negative results. If you think in positive terms, you will achieve positive results. That is the simple fact, which is at the basis of an astonishing law of prosperity and success.

Every day, as a leader, you have a choice on how you will treat your mind. And there are countless entities who are actively trying to capture your mind and capitalize on it.

Tristan Harris describes this as the “race to the bottom of the brain stem.” Media companies and advertisers do almost anything to keep your eyes locked where they want them, with little concern for your mind’s well-being.

One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, your team, your friends, and your family is to guard your mind and take care of it. 

Here are three quick suggestions for better brain health:

  • Begin and End your days with positive, encouraging, hopeful thoughts. For many of us, this will involve some form of reading. 
  • Drink lots of water. Some research suggests that our brains are 75% water. It is hard for your brain to be healthy when you are dehydrated.
  • Stay marginally informed. It is good to know what is going on in the world, but constantly focusing on the news cycle does not serve your mind well. (I’m old enough to remember when an afternoon newspaper and 30 minutes of broadcast kept people informed.) 


John Milton summed up why mind health is so important when he wrote: “The mind is its own place and, in itself can make a heaven of hell or a hell of heaven.”


Brian Rutherford

Brian Rutherford is the Director of Content and Product Strategy for Leadercast. Brian has been telling stories professionally for twenty-five years. Stories that inspire people to see themselves and the world differently. Stories that challenge people to take meaningful action in the world.

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