In my many years of setting up and being associated with leadership development programmes I have become convinced that Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) is comprised of a broad range of tools that every good leader needs to have. In this article we will explore how you can become a better leader through using some simple, core NLP concepts.
A quick Google search will throw up many different ideas, concepts and definitions of leadership. It is fair to say that a globally agreed definition of Leadership doesn’t exist. In this context, it makes it difficult to understand what skills a leader should have. In most explanations there is something about inspiring and motivating people towards a common goal. There is usually things about empathy with others and / or self-knowledge about your impact on others.
I will focus on three areas that I believe are critical for business leaders today. In no particular order I think that good leaders need skills in these three broad areas:
- Managing Emotions
- Accelerated Learning
- Persuasion and Influence
We will look at each in turn, why they are important and how an NLP mindset can help in each area.
At the end of this article I will give you one specific NLP exercise that you can use in all three areas to dramatically improve your leadership skills in all the three areas mentioned.
I will restrict this section to just about managing your own emotions as, for me, the idea of managing other people and their emotions seem to fit better under persuasion and influencing skills.
There is some sort of growth, stretch or development involved with any well-set goal. This means at some points on the journey, the team, either as individuals or as a whole team, will be stepping outside their comfort zone. Depending on the amount of stretch, conflict, tension and pressure comes with the territory of being a leader.
The last thing any team needs is a leader who caves in under pressure, falls apart when the task gets difficult or goes sick when there is conflict internally or externally with the team. Often a leader is required to support, defend or present the team in pressured circumstances.
Being able to manage your emotions is an extremely useful tool in any leader’s tool kit. Click to tweet
NLP has a wide range of tools to control or change your emotions very quickly. A few common ones such as a circle of excellence, come under the broad subject of anchors. This is well written up all over the internet so I won’t spend any more time on it here.
One of the things I have noticed about managers and leaders is that they make mistakes. Generally, the way that experienced and inexperienced leaders relate to their mistakes is wildly different. Some inexperienced leaders can become paralysed into inaction through the fear of making a mistake. Conversely, good leaders will take mistakes as part of life, the learning process and use the lessons to improve results.
Just for a few moments spend some time thinking about your ideal version of a leader. Think of a typical situation where they would be under intense pressure. Consider how they would act and how they would relate to the mistakes they may make along the way. Then think about the results they would get from holding a relaxed but focused attitude towards their goals. Hold that thought as we will return to it towards the end of this article.
As my first point states, any well set goal includes a stretch and therefore something new to learn. Good leaders are constantly growing, learning and developing themselves. What this means in practice is that it is useful to learn how to be comfortable outside your comfort zone and how to take in new knowledge, information and concepts fast.
However, often the issue about accelerated learning is not concerning the techniques, but about the beliefs you hold about yourself, the world around you and learning. Another practical tool you would get from learning some NLP would be to build an ideal learning state, complete with the emotions and beliefs you would hold to be the best and most efficient learner you can be; along with the trigger to fire this off at will.
Now if you could imagine yourself as the ideal learner, a person that can look at any situation and extract the key piece of learning that will improve your performance, what would that look like? What questions would you ask of yourself to get the best from you and how would it feel if you were doing that?
See if you can combine the two representations and hold that thought until the end of this article.
Influence and Persuasion
A key part of leadership has to be about selling the vision. Here NLP can also help considerably.
Firstly you need a well-constructed vision that aligns with your values and has relevance to you. NLP has tools about building a vision that works in a practical, pragmatic but passionate way.
Then you need to understand the people you want to bring on board. You need to understand their motivations, drivers and values. You need to understand how they will benefit from buying into your vision and helping along the way.
Finally, you will need the language and communication skills to be able to present all this back in a way that motivates, inspires and calls people to action. A huge part of NLP is all about how to do just this.
If you could capture and lead the imagination of others towards your goals would this make you a better leader? If you could tap into people’s unconscious minds and motivate them towards your goals where would you take them?
The Advanced Persuasion Patterns Programme will not only give you the tools to motivate and lead people but will also give you the attitude and mindset to be able to lead as well as key accelerated learning tools to develop the skills quickly. Click through and find out more.
At the beginning of this article I said I would give you an exercise that will dramatically improve your leadership skills. The exercise is a variant of perceptual positions and I mention it here only for those of you that like to know where this has come from.
I am not going to explain all the detail about perceptual positions itself as you will find this is well written up on my website and other places, I am just going to give you the process. If you don’t find this easy or want to talk through any of it please feel free to call my office for further details.
The exercise is about building a representation of you as the ideal leader and to be able to access the internal resources of this hypothetical you. This works on the basis of learning from different perspectives as well as mental rehearsal and might even give you an action plan of how you want to develop.
Remember the two representations I asked you to think about and then combine, I would like you to recall that now. I want you to imagine yourself in different situations. Notice their body language, the way they speak and what they say.
Now imagine stepping over to this new version of you and stepping into the body. From the inside, notice what it is like to be this person, understand what kind of beliefs and values they hold to be this way. Notice what it feels like to act in this way and do the things they are doing.
Once you have spent a few minutes enjoying this step out of that body and back to yourself. Ask yourself what you have learnt from this part of the exercise.
Next, I want you to take an observer position where you can visualise both the old and the new you. In essence, you are watching the current version of you watching the new version of you. From this perspective, notice the differences between the two and start coaching the old you into becoming the new you…yes you will be talking to yourself and feel free to do this aloud on the train going home…it ensures you get a seat for all three versions of you.
It is important that from the observer position you are emotion free, non-judgemental and just encouraging the old you into changing. You might even be able to work out an action or practice plan to develop into the new version of you…or ideally you might even notice that you have always been the new version of you and it is just a change of perspective that allows you to suddenly find yourself being like this. However it works best for you.
Finally, you want the old and new versions of you to merge together doing what you would like to do in that given situation.
This will work well for a general concept of the new version of you but works even better if you can localise it to specific situations where you want to act differently.
It sounds like a long winded exercise but it takes more to explain than to do. Also the more you do it the more you will find yourself just doing it instinctively without much conscious thought. There are a lot more powerful and sophisticated versions of this basic exercise but this is a great starting point.
Any good NLP course will give you a solid process from Deep Trance Identification that will allow you to rapidly and deeply change your leadership skills, but this is a great starting exercise. You can build in more powerful concepts as you get better at building foundation.
It’s not surprising that NLP has a lot of tools that are needed for you to be a good leader. A lot of NLP has come from modelling excellence and that would include excellent leaders. In short I believe developing emotional control; accelerated learning and persuasion skills will take you a long way towards being a truly excellent leader. Any good NLP course is packed with real pragmatic tools and exercises that will give you these skills. Here is a course where you can learn all those skills and more: