Thursday, March 31, 2016

Psychological Swagger: Four Signs you Lead with it

Guest post from Dr. Rob Fazio:

Leading is not a science, it’s an art, influenced by science. An art that when you get it right, gets things done and magnifies the best in people during tough times.

 In leadership, arrogance is telling people you’re awesome, and confidence is giving other people the opportunity to feel and act awesome. This brings us to psychological swagger, a learnable skill that’s part of the secret sauce of successful leadership.

Swagger plays a key role in the business world and can make or break your path to success. Psychological swagger includes both what people see and what you see in yourself. Psychological swagger is lubrication for influence and here are four signs to you have it.

1. You know when to give up.

Knowing when enough is enough saves you from drowning in little tasks. Ask these questions to see if something is worth hanging onto or letting go. Is this something I enjoy? Will this lead to long-term value? Will this build my brand? If you have a yes to all three of these questions, it’s a no brainer, game on. If you said no to one of these questions, think through the costs of your time and emotional energy. If you said no to two or more of these questions, it’s time focus on something more worth your while.

2. You put doubts in your doubts.

Doubt can be like slamming on the brakes or hitting the gas. This philosophy comes from renowned psychologist Dr. Al Petitpas. In his work, he teaches athletes the power of realizing that your mind can convince you of something that is dead wrong. An example of this would be the leader who gets caught up in asking the wrong questions, like “Why isn’t anyone doing what I need them to do?” If you ask bad questions you will get bad answers. A better question to ask yourself when in doubt is “What if I’m wrong and people are trying to do what I want them to do, but we just need to improve our communication? The key is to question yourself when you question yourself.

3. You know when to NOT listen.

We are bombarded with constant content. If we’re not careful the messages we hear create our path forward. We have all internalized messages since childhood. Don’t worry, I’m not going to get all Freud on you, but the truth is, we have a choice of what to listen to and what to ignore. Feedback is helpful but you need to differentiate what messages may be holding you back.

The key is to become aware of messages that create barriers, and take action. I call them barrier beliefs. They are not facts, just messages we have the choice to listen to or not. Just the other day I was talking with an executive who believed he wasn’t good at strategy. When we talked further, it turned out that he was actually very strategic, but just became intimidated when asked to be “strategic.”

Identify what you have heard throughout your life that created barrier beliefs. Ask yourself, “Where did I learn this?” What can I do to break free from this limitation?” The more you focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t do, the more successful you will be.

4. You bounce back.

Anyone a fan of the show “Shark Tank?” I am. I enjoy the game within the game. It’s not about money; it’s about presence and persuasion. The entrepreneurs who do the best are the ones that can take a hit and bounce back. Many of these people have put their heart and soul into their dream and can be cut down in a one liner by Mr. Wonderful – the Simon Cowell of “Shark Tank.”  Powerful and influential people are going to knock you down, it’s just another opportunity to get up.

I had the opportunity to advise someone who started a private equity firm and got thrown out of his own fund. You can imagine how challenging that would be. He picked himself up, learned from his mistakes and became the head of an even larger fund. People, who know failure is feedback and temporary, learn and move on.

At a recent speaking engagement I was asked to teach mental toughness and sport psychology strategies. I ended my talk with a photo of a bear and discussed potential reactions to being in crisis. That had impact, but what happened next had more impact. NFL Hall of Famer, Ronnie Lott, walked out. He removed his four Super Bowl rings and told everyone to pass them around. Then he said, “Well, about that bear, I would just knock it out!” In seconds, Ronnie had taught what I had spent an hour teaching because what he said and how he said it had swagger. I realized as he continued teaching, that’s how Ronnie played the game – both on and off the field – with confidence, focus and swagger. At the day’s end when Ronnie was asked why he is so comfortable passing out his Super Bowl rings to strangers, he responded, “I still have one good hit left.”

If you have not already, find your psychological swagger. Identify what makes you confident and believe in yourself. I am not saying you need to walk around and be arrogant. I am saying every great leader embraces their own version of courage and confidence. When you know what makes you confident or makes you quiver, you set your direction rather than letting other people push you in a direction. People can sense your psychological swagger and that’s how they determine if you are a leader worth following. Swagger on!

You can learn more about whether or not you lead with psychological swagger by reading more on success in my new book, Simple is the New Smart.

Rob Fazio, Ph.D., is an executive advisor, sport psychologist, crisis consultant, keynote speaker, and nonprofit leader who is passionate about helping people simplify success and move forward fast in their lives and careers. For more information, visit

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