What does it mean to be mentally tough? It is about resilience and a willingness to take on challenges and face the unknown. Most of all, however, mental toughness is a habit, as leadership coach and entrepreneur Mark Cushway explains.
“As a leadership characteristic, mental toughness is not simply about motivation. Rather, to be effective it must be embedded in you, so that it becomes an instinctive response to a wide variety of situations.”
But how essential is mental toughness to leadership, and, if it is essential, can people learn it as a skill?
Why Does Mental Toughness Matter?
“Having mental strength and resilience is fundamental to business success. It forms a kind of inner core that helps enormously when dealing with pressures, problems and challenges.”
Furthermore, it is a skill that you can develop.
“It’s not a case of either you’ve got it, or you haven’t. Rather, it’s about learning to develop a mindset, which then has the potential to influence every experience you have.”
For mental toughness to be effective it has to become a habit, something that feels instinctive.
“Capability is not enough on its own. Mental toughness is the thing that drives you and ultimately enables you to achieve your peak performance, like an athlete. But it goes beyond this, because it embeds itself in you, potentially for life.”
Resilience is a huge aspect of this.
“Developing the strength of character to ride things out and see things through to their conclusion is vital to strong leadership”
“You need to be able to draw on your necessary inner reserves of toughness when there are setbacks or obstacles.”
Moreover, effective leadership means taking on change in various forms.
“It’s about next practice, rather than best practice, about embracing innovation and being ready to face whatever comes next.”
The Right Balance
In leadership, it is important not to confuse mental toughness with top-down, dictatorial behaviour.
“Your inner mental strength must give you the capacity to bring others alongside, to get them to buy into your vision. Being tough mentally does not mean being tough on others.”
Mental strength requires patience, and to be prepared for the long haul.
“Developing mental toughness means defining your goals, and gauging success in manageable steps, however small. It’s not about big, dramatic surges of inspiration but instead a gradual transformation”
It is about applying your energy in measured amounts and marking milestones incrementally.
“Strong leadership comes from an embedded mental resilience,” Mark concludes. “This is about genuine change, and that takes time to achieve.”
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