Do you really have an open mind as a leader?


One of the most critical factors of leadership success is the ability to truly open your mind and be willing to take on ideas and suggestions from others. Without this, you will miss crucial opportunities and brilliant ideas, and won’t be able to build optimal relationships in the business world.

 Don’t kid yourself

So many leaders that I have worked with in executive coaching or in leadership development programs are convinced they have an open mind, as they have learned to utilise their active listening skills. They attend to what others are saying, use minimised encouragers (nods, mm-hmms) to show they are engaged, and might paraphrase what they have heard to demonstrate their understanding. BUT they then begin telling their own story, ignoring all that they have just heard.

They were not listening with an open mind at all — they were just waiting for the other person to stop talking so they could convince them that they were right!

When people are constantly mindful of their own view, they are not at all open to the view of others. To truly have an open mind you need to be willing to accept other people’s suggestions and put them into action, to change your own mind in light of another’s perspective, to be prepared to make a different decision.

Remove your shoes

I often refer to a ‘shoes-off mindset’ to encourage others to keep an open mind. Everyone is familiar with the saying that to truly understand another person you need to walk a mile in his or her shoes. I like to add the next line in reference to mindset.

To be able to walk in another’s shoes, first you need to remove your own!

Problem solvers find this particularly hard to do when they can see a quick solution. However, putting your own views aside allows for opportunities to learn from others and to be more creative in considering possibilities, enabling growth in leadership capability.

Encouraging others to share their views demonstrates that you value their input, which not only strengthens the relationship; it builds their sense of self-worth and confidence.

If I’m right, you must be wrong

Accepting other’s perspectives as valid even when they differ from your own also demonstrates respect. So many people prefer to deal in black and white because it’s simpler, clearer and easier. But when you are dealing with people’s perceptions, there are so many shades of grey.

Perceptions are formed based upon people’s past experiences, their beliefs, values, family upbringing, religion, education, socialization – right down to their mood at the time. So of course each person’s perceptions are unique. These unique perceptions form the lens through which people view the world. What is most important to remember is that every person’s perception is his or her reality.

Different versions of reality

You may only have a fraction of the full story, but you don’t know what you don’t know. The decisions you make are all based on your version of reality. But of course there are other versions.

Your boss’s perception of you will influence your promotional prospects and opportunities. So if your boss hasn’t had the opportunity to witness your best performance or become aware of your greatest achievements, their reality won’t include the best version of you. You need to have this insight to be empowered to influence their perception otherwise.

How to develop this ability

The Women who Lead program aims for women to recognise and develop the best version of you. We develop self-awareness through feedback. But of course for the feedback to be useful we need to be open to accepting views that differ to our own.

Rather than dismissing opposing views it is helpful to consider what it is that the other person has experienced or observed that has led them to form that perception. If you don’t like their view consider whether you can provide them with a different experience to influence their view.

What can you add or alter in your own interactions with others that will lead them to develop the perceptions of you that align with your own?

We teach the importance of having an open mind and seeking to understand the perspectives of others. Reflective practice and being present in the moment are crucial to developing self-awareness and mindfulness of your impact on others, which are foundations of effective leadership. To be effective your intention must align with your impact.

It is one thing to understand these concepts and agree they are beneficial, it is quite another to actually apply these skills in practice and to learn to do them well. It takes a sustained effort to keep practicing these skills, and mindfulness of the impact in the present moment.

The Women who Lead program provides a safe environment to take a risk and practice utilising new skills and receiving feedback.

The Women who Lead program is a collaboration between Flow Leadership and Style Confidante, designed and delivered by Katalin Howell, Director of Flow Leadership and Melissa Lewis Founder of Style Confidante.

If you would like to know more about our programs or would like a program tailored for your organisation, please contact us at [email protected] [email protected] or visit our website

About Katalin Howell

Katalin is a leadership development professional with over 20 years experience in psychology education, leadership development, board governance, and executive education. Katalin has specialised in designing and delivering leadership programs working with leading organisations such as Melbourne Business School and Leadership Victoria. Katalin is currently the Director of Flow Leadership, a company underpinned by proprietary research into leadership development. Katalin’s psychology background, her extensive research and experience has led to the development of the Flow Leadership Model. Programs utilising the Flow Leadership Model are offered for emerging, established and executive leaders to facilitate the development of the ultimate state of effectiveness, influence and success in leadership. The Women who Lead program is a collaboration between Flow Leadership and Style Confidante, designed and delivered by Katalin Howell, Director of Flow Leadership and Melissa Lewis Founder of Style Confidante. If you would like to know more about the programs or would like a program tailored for your organisation, please visit our website.

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