Negativity Begone! How To Become The Leader You Always Wanted To Be

Written by Darren Kanthal

January 23, 2023

Negativity Begone

The holiday season has come and gone, and work is once again occupying your thoughts. Maybe you’ve made a New Year’s resolution to be a more confident, empathetic, curious, out-of-the-box creative leader – but there’s a problem.

It’s that voice again.

The one that says you aren’t good enough. The one that immediately puts you on the defensive. The one that instills panic and anxiety.

This is the year you’re going to prove yourself as a competent, successful leader. And, as my Pops would say – take the bull by the horns. Why all this negativity, then?

Well, self-improvement can be a little more tricky than just a ‘that time of year’ resolution (and you know how I feel about New Year’s resolutions – I’m not a big fan.) Why the need to ‘prove’ yourself to anyone anyway?

Let me tell you, I have seen ‘proving’ manifest itself in some pretty dark ways—for me and my clients. We can be argumentative for the sake of it, we can be bullish, and we look past the ideas and opinions of others because we want to be heard. Often that want to be heard is really code for ‘I need to be right!’ – sometimes at all costs.

Leaders who desire to whole-heartedly rearrange their mindset can’t just say a few affirmations and move on, right? Nope. They need to actively acknowledge their blind spots and weaknesses, ask for help, lean into their strengths, and build powerful networks of people that complement their own.

Now I am not saying this is easy to do! Far from it!

However, there is a way we can learn these traits and many more to be the best leaders we always knew we could be—diverting our thoughts from negative learned behaviors to create a more productive environment for our whole team. Sounds pretty good, right?

It’s called Positive Intelligence, and it is becoming super-popular with leaders all over the world who want to understand their own negative thought patterns and how to overcome them. In this blog, I am going to give you an insight into how Positive Intelligence may be the key to unlocking your full collaborative, open-minded, productive potential and how to send those negative thoughts packing.

Why Should Leaders Use Positive Intelligence?

Why should leaders use Positive Intelligence

There is a verifiable link between high-performing leaders who use Positive Intelligence daily and overall leadership performance. As a leadership coach, I have seen how Positive Intelligence helps people of all ages, ethnicities, and cultures understand and pinpoint the voices in their heads designed to wreak havoc – and transform them into voices that help them exude self-assurance.

A good example I always come back to is a client of mine. She decided to name her Judge voice “Regina.” (to learn more about the Judge, and other mental saboteurs, read my Positive Intelligence primer here).

Regina is a prickly, short-fused character. When Regina is in charge—watch out! With Regina’s (not so helpful) assistance, my client can convince herself she’s a horrible leader (even though every other indication is that she’s actually kicking ass).

Until Positive Intelligence came into play, Regina used to be uncontrollable. She’d argue and afford no one the time of day. My client realized that when Regina was in full swing, she wasn’t at her best. In fact, she was closer to operating at her worst.

Everyone has a Regina. Some of us cope better than others, though.

Leaders with strong mental fitness show themselves and others empathy without much effort—it just comes naturally. They intercept unhelpful mental habits by cutting through their self-doubt BS and letting go of their insecurities. Instead of fighting to be the singular voice in the room, with the best idea, they elicit multiple opinions within their team and, together, develop a collaborative master plan.

The leaders I refer to are recognized for building the most productive teams by encouraging debate and discussion. They allow time for ideas to be flushed out and then assign clear roles and responsibilities to execute!

How Leaders Can Train Their Internal Dialogue

Did you know some people go about life without internal dialogue? I find that extraordinarily fascinating! I don’t know about you, but my mind is talking to me, NONSTOP. Positive Intelligence just may resonate if you are anything like me.

Positive Intelligence has helped me to identify which voice is which when the chattering starts. Is it my Judge (I call him Richard…get it?) or my Sage? Am I hurriedly running to the next thing and looking for greener grass because my Restless Sabotuer is driving the bus, or am I taking the time to think things over?

If you struggle to differentiate between your head’s positive messages and hostile voices, you are not alone! It’s possible you’re being driven by Judge and Saboteur thoughts rooted in shame, guilt, anger, disappointment, and anxiety. When you look at the world through this lens, it’s easy to see:

  • Why we are skeptical of people’s intentions.
  • Why we exhibit frustration and anger.
  • Why we place blame when life goes ‘exactly the way I knew it would.’

Leaders who use Positive Intelligence have fine-tuned their mental fitness.

  • They flex to life’s many challenges with a sense of adventure, understanding, and discernment.
  • They take action through more profound thought, due diligence, and attention to detail.
  • They take leaps of faith and are open to new opportunities (without triple-checking themselves and beating themselves up if it doesn’t go to plan).

There is a pretty cool story from Thailand about an amazing gold buddha statue that was camouflaged in stucco and colored glass for over 200 years. When scholars decided to move the statue to a different temple, some of the stucco chipped off, revealing the buddha in all its golden splendor! People were amazed at the transformation.

Golden Buddha in Thailand

This is an excellent metaphor for all of us. We drape ourselves with shields, clothes, stucco, and everything else to keep ourselves safe. Just like the gold buddha, we are so much more when we ditch the layers and embrace the vulnerability of the wider world.

Leaders who embrace PQ also embrace the vulnerability of being human. They allow for mistakes to be made and learn from them. After all, mistakes are inevitable, but it’s how we deal with them that makes great leadership.

Positive Intelligence Encourages Personal Empathy

Leaders who have strong Positive Intelligence are empathetic for themselves first—and then for everyone else.

This is important!

So many high-performing leaders I speak to are empathetic and understanding of others when they make mistakes but demand absolute perfection from themselves. This is unrealistic and harmful. Leaders who have a handle on how to be kind to themselves make better decisions as they aren’t constantly second-guessing themselves with negative self-talk.

Positive Intelligence Leaders Are Inquisitive

Leaders with a high PQ score explore like Indiana Jones!

Always looking for clues and hints in all areas of life, these leaders pull up under rocks and peer around corners. They ask questions. They seek to understand. I am sure I don’t need to explain why these attributes make for a kick-ass leader in the fast-paced world of business.

Positive Intelligence Leaders Are Creative

You won’t hear creative Positive Intelligence leaders say, “we’ve always done it this way.” Instead, they will likely explain WHY things are done and then invite contrary views and ideas from other team members.

If the job is done well, does it matter whose idea it was? Positive Intelligence leaders don’t think so. Creativity is harnessed when everyone gets together and has a chance to be heard.

Positive Intelligence Leaders Are Approachable

PQ leaders say “yes” more often. In fact, instead of “no” they say “yes…and”. After all, even when an idea is crappy, there is usually some kernel of merit in it. When PQ leaders say “yes…and” they are acknowledging a different perspective, and they open the door to expressing a contrasting point of view as well. They understand that colleagues and direct reports need to feel like they can raise issues, concerns, questions, and ideas without fear of being blasted or laughed at.

Everyone has had a manager that wasn’t approachable. Do you remember how that felt?

Having a leader you can lean on for assistance in tricky situations and good times is essential for a functioning work environment. Teams are always more productive with an understanding leader at the helm.

Top 3 Tips For Improving Your Leadership Skills With PQ

Top 3 Tips For Improving Your Leadership Skills With PQ

Positive Intelligence is an ongoing skill. I am a lifelong learner and do my best to silence the negative Judge and empower the Sage voice in my head. While there is much more to Positive Intelligence, here’s some insights to start your journey.

1. You cannot expect yourself to know everything

You don’t need to have the answer to every question or come up with the best solution on the spot. Your intelligence, capabilities, and effectiveness as a leader are not entirely based on being all-knowing all the time. If you don’t know something—say it! If you need more information before making a decision—ask for it! If you do, you will seem more like a real person to your team members.

2. We all have a Judge

Every single one of us. It doesn’t matter where you come from, what you believe, or what language you speak. Sometimes it is covert. Other times it is overt. It might curse. It may belittle. Identifying your Judge is the first step toward determining what type of Judge you have.

3. You are a Sage Motherf#*cker!

Believe it. Believe YOU are the secret sauce. YOU are the silver bullet. YOU are competent. YOU belong. YOU are the shit! If you don’t think so, go back to number two and realize it’s just your Judge convincing you of more lies.

Summing it Up

The truth is, Positive Intelligence creates a calm and clear mind that is more conducive to being an empathetic, curious, creative, and approachable leader. When you harness the power of Positive Intelligence you can say goodbye to self-doubt and the dastardly Judge inside your head and evoke your Sage who is waiting to be unleashed.

If you’re ready to become the leader you always wanted to be, consider enrolling in my PQ-focused coaching program. I look forward to meeting you and tackling your Saboteurs together!

Darren Kanthal

Darren Kanthal, Founder of The Kanthal Group, is a values-driven leadership and career coach with over 20 years of experience in HR and Talent Acquisition. Darren is intensely passionate about helping mid-career leaders cut through the BS, do the foundational work, and achieve their greatness.


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