My fifteen years as a psychotherapist taught me about mental strength and the resilience of the human spirit. I saw countless people bounce back from overwhelming adversity and beat the odds.
One of the biggest lessons I learned about mentally strong people was that their resilience had less to do with what they did and was more dependent on what they didn’t do.
People who resisted unhealthy mental habits had an incredible advantage in life. No matter what hardships, challenges, or setbacks they encountered, they had a superior ability to reach their greatest potential.
Leaders, in particular, need mental muscle to lead their teams through good times and bad. And to make their good habits effective, they need to give up the bad habits that could rob them of mental strength.
Here are the 13 things mentally strong leaders don’t do:
1. They Don’t Mask Their Insecurities
Admitting you’re not adept at everything requires humility–which is a true sign of strength. But many leaders want to act tough. Mentally strong leaders, however, refuse to waste their time and energy hiding their weaknesses. Instead, they put their effort into growing better and becoming stronger.
2. They Don’t Make Their Self-Worth Dependent Upon Other’s Opinions
If your self-worth plummets each time you hear something critical–or skyrockets every time you receive praise–you’ll become a people pleaser who can’t successfully lead. Mentally strong leaders don’t depend on others to validate their self-worth.
3. They Don’t Let Their Emotions Control Them
Mentally strong leaders don’t suppress their emotions–they are acutely aware of how their feelings influence their behavior. Rather than blow up every time they’re angry or bow out every time they’re nervous, they’re able to regulate their emotions so they can behave productively.
4. They Don’t Dismiss Criticism
Ineffective leaders dismiss criticism at all costs because it’s too damaging to their egos. But mentally strong leaders are able to consider whether there is any truth to unfavorable feedback. They’re willing to make changes if someone else has an idea that could make things better.
5. They Don’t Downplay Their Pain
Saying, “I’m not worried at all,” or “That rejection didn’t sting a bit,” won’t necessarily instill confidence. Mentally strong leaders have the courage to admit when they’re concerned. And because their words and their behavior are in line with their emotional state, people see them as authentic.
6. They Don’t Deny Their Limitations
Leaders who enter into situations believing they have zero chance of failure or insisting that nothing could ever go wrong, fail the fastest. Mentally strong leaders admit to their limitations, both on an individual level and on a company-wide scale.
7. They Don’t Seek Revenge
Saying things like, “He’ll pay for making me look stupid in that meeting,” or “I’ll make sure he never gets another job again,” doesn’t exemplify strength. Mentally strong leaders don’t waste time and energy hurting others. Instead, they invest their valuable resources into bettering themselves and supporting the people who matter most.
8. They Don’t Deny Responsibility for Their Behavior
Offering weak apologies like, “Sorry if you were offended,” instead of, “Sorry I was insensitive,” places blame on others. But you can’t grow stronger and become better unless you accept full responsibility for your choices. Mentally strong leaders admit when they messed up and they accept full responsibility for the fallout.
9. They Don’t Avoid Confrontation
Confrontation doesn’t have to be a bad thing. In fact, holding direct, upfront conversations is the key to helping everyone work together as a team. Mentally strong leaders are willing to hold tough conversations even when it feels uncomfortable to address the issue.
10. They Don’t Silence Other People
It can be hard to hear opinions that run contrary to your own. But mentally strong leaders aren’t threatened by people who speak up. In fact, they encourage people to offer ideas because they aren’t threatened by people who can develop solutions.
11. They Don’t Mistake Kindness for Weakness
Whether you’re delivering a cup of coffee to an employee or offering extended bereavement leave, being kind doesn’t mean you’re weak. Mentally strong leaders show compassion and don’t worry that they’ll be taken advantage of for being weak.
12. They Don’t Confuse Confidence With Arrogance
You won’t catch a mentally strong leader saying things like, “This place can’t survive without me,” or “I’m the only one who knows what they’re doing in this whole place.” Mentally strong leaders are confident in who they are and what they can do but they don’t exaggerate their importance.
13. They Don’t Fear Other People’s Success
Mentally strong leaders aren’t intimidated by employees, other leaders, or other companies who are doing great things. They know someone else’s achievements don’t diminish their own accomplishments. Rather than waste time worrying about people who might outshine them, they stay focused on their own path to success.
Build Your Mental Muscle
No one is born with mental strength–but everyone has the ability to become mentally strong. Building mental muscle will help you reach your greatest potential–on a personal and a professional level.
And the good news is, developing mental strength can have a trickle-down effect. When you become mentally stronger, you’ll inspire others to become the best versions of themselves.
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