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Karen Wouters

May 5, 2017

Karen Wouters

Antwerp Management School

The winning mentality: narcissism or necessity?

Leadership

Karen Wouters.jpgSolid leadership is essential for any business striving to operate successfully. Today, organizations demand an entirely different kind of leadership compared to 20 years ago. Leadership revolves around having the right mind-set. Karen Wouters, Academic Director of our Start to Lead program, believes that a good leadership mentality is something you can learn. It’s also about having a winner’s mentality. That has nothing to do with arrogance, but everything to do with endurance.

"To be the very best you need to first of all truly believe you are the very best."

In response to the current market, Karen Wouters has established a program that challenges participants to become successful modern-day leaders. Wouters gives her take on the issue: "leadership today is all about having the right mind-set. To be the very best you need to first of all truly believe you are the very best. When you leave room for doubt, you are basically setting off with the hand brake on.” A self-assured attitude will in turn inspire the people around you. Thankfully, “thinking like a winner” is something you can learn, according to Wouters.

“Whenever I have to give an important speech, I prepare by imagining myself in front of a hall packed with people who are completely captivated, applauding me.”

 

Practice makes perfect

The right attitude is something you have to work on just as hard as on any other project. “Mental resilience is something you can create. It’s thirty percent character and seventy percent training.” So how do you learn something like that? Continuous self-reflection is incredibly important, but visualisation exercises can also make a big difference. Karen Wouters regularly puts her own theories to the test: “Whenever I have to give an important speech, I prepare by imagining myself in front of a hall packed with people who are completely captivated, applauding me.” Scientific research has shown that similar techniques are in fact as effective as actually practicing a presentation in front of a test audience. Once you’ve established the right attitude as a leader, people will adopt your ideas with conviction. After all, “winning is a self-fulfilling prophecy. And it’s contagious as well.”

 

The sustainable winning mentality: overcoming failure

The number one misconception about having a winner’s mentality is that it’s all about one person’s narcissism. As a leader, this is naturally not what it’s about at all – or what it should be about. According to Wouters, however, it is a very prominent pitfall: “When your confidence becomes reckless or arrogant, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. A winning mentality tips over into something problematic when you start thinking you can handle everything on your own.”

"A winning mentality tips over into something problematic when you start thinking you can handle everything on your own.”

A sustainable winning mentality requires two key characteristics. On the one hand, you have to aim for a larger goal, namely the collective progress of your team, your company etc. “If you see winning as something collective, you will be more inclined to take other people’s perspective into account,” claims Wouters. This in turn will help you to make better decisions. On the other hand, it’s essential to regard your mistakes as unavoidable learning opportunities instead of insurmountable obstacles. Usually, this becomes easier when you have a more wholesome goal than simply feeding your own ego. “People who are only interested in performance are more likely to come to a standstill when they are faced with failure. Those who are more focused on learning will approach a setback as an opportunity and handle the situation better. That’s what makes for a truly winning mentality.”

"Those who are more focused on learning will approach a setback as an opportunity and handle the situation better. That’s what makes for a truly winning mentality.”

Start to Lead

With Start to Lead, Wouters addresses “young professionals on the threshold of taking up leadership in their job and organization.” This includes people both leading a team for the first time and those who aspire to swiftly increase their impact by developing their leadership. “Authentic and shared leadership is really what’s being placed front and center” and the development of the correct mindset - the real, sustainable winning mentality – becomes central to this process.

Feeling inspired? Also read: How to start leading: 4 pointers for young leaders. What to know more about the Start to Lead program? 

Find out how you can become a better leader!

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