When you lead a company, as opposed to just running it, one of your key responsibilities is managing the mindset of the organization. Who you’re being is just as important as what you’re doing -- if not more so. That is because the way you're being -- your mindset -- creates the reality of the world around you.
One of the key aspects of the mindset that you want to manage is abundance- versus scarcity-based thinking. Understanding the differences between the two and adopting an abundance-based leadership mentality will help you, those around you and your company grow.
Leaders who have a scarcity-based mindset have what I call a not-enough attitude. They’re the ones who typically complain about not having enough time, money, energy or resources to achieve their goals. Typically, they frame their challenges through what they lack. As a result, their businesses and those around them focus on the wrong priorities: preservation rather than growth, familiar surroundings instead of new frontiers, and complacency over challenges.
Conversely, leaders with an abundance-based mindset focus on possibilities. When President Kennedy committed the nation to landing a man on the moon in 1961 before 1970, NASA had not even determined yet whether it was possible given the limitations of its technology at the time. But Kennedy didn’t care. He was not tied down by existing thinking but instead focused on future possibilities. This is what I call blue-sky thinking.
Abundance-based leaders, like President Kennedy, are visionary and focus on what they want to do -- regardless of whether it's currently possible. This may seem counter-intuitive. Think about how many times you’ve been told in your life “you can’t do that, you should focus instead on (insert safe career).” By following this approach of setting our goals based on what's reasonable, we end up selling ourselves short.
The vision-based leader isn't concerned with what’s reasonable or comfortable. She focuses on what she wants, takes inventory of her current resources and connects the dots. The scarcity-based leader accepts things for how they currently are instead of second-guessing for how they could be, and they resign themselves to existing limitations.
In the early days of running my business, I needed a salesperson but didn't have the money to hire one. The scarcity-based leader would have said "I need this but can't afford it, therefore, I can’t do it." Instead, I said, "What I need is an amazing sales person with a ton of experience who also happens to be willing to work on a commission only basis for a hardly existing company."
The German statesman Johann Wolfgang von Goethe famously said, "At the moment of commitment the entire universe conspires to assist you." Sure enough, just a few weeks later, I connected on LinkedIn with a vice president of sales who was quitting his job because he was bored of the traditional nine-to-five grind and wanted some excitement in his life. I told him what I was looking for -- and it was exactly what he wanted. He came to work for me and eight years later is still on my team. My abundance-based mentality made this possible. It allowed me engage to this person and have him embrace my vision.
Scarcity-based leaders and organizations find themselves locked into false choices and zero-sum propositions rather than expansive possibilities. It’s a fixed pie, win-lose attitude. “If I'm winning, it means you're losing,” says the scarcity-based leader rather than understanding that more often than not, negotiations and transactions can be win-win, where both sides get what they want and create more opportunities for everyone.
Having an abundance-based mentality also frees you up from the chains of negativity. A scarcity-based mentality is always looking at what's not working. As a result, you’re inherently restricted and incapable of maximizing your unique strengths and competitive advantages. Abundance focuses on what is working and what is possible unconstrained by limiting beliefs.
Don’t get me wrong -- an abundance-based mentality does not guarantee you’ll be successful at everything you do. You’ll still fail and make mistakes. But the only way to avoid failing is to never try anything. Coming from abundance creates the attitude that if something doesn't work this time, there is always a way, and it is just a matter of shifting and trying again until finding the way that works.
Instilling in yourself and in your organization an abundance mentality is easier said than done. There are constant demands of business, cash flow, competition and breakdowns that make it easy to feel like resources are scarce. In addition, there are messages in the media about circumstances -- such as world events and economic indicators -- that are out of our control but have the potential to harm or deprive us.
But just as world-class athletes have to exercise regularly and are tempted to cheat on their diets, you, too, must constantly exercise your abundance-based mindset. Like with any skill, it’s not easy to maintain and requires constant effort, but you, your company and the people you love will be stronger because of it.