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Overcome Obstacles for Change

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We've all heard the saying (or myth): People resist change. Of course, the main task of many leaders is to bring about change -- sometimes unpopular yet necessary adjustments. How can leaders push past a team's cynicism -- and their own self-doubt -- to bring about change?

I spoke with IMD (Institute for Management Development) professor George Kohlrieser about high-performance leadership for my video series "Leadership: A Master Class." He notes that the failure of many leaders is creating negative states in other people because of their own negative mindsets.

"This is a very destructive myth. People do not naturally resist change. They resist the pain of change. They resist the fear of the unknown. The brain is naturally going to seek, be curious, explore, and do new things. It's how the brain thrives. But to do that, you have to feel safe. When you feel safe enough, then you go out and explore. You can't change when you're defensive. A leader has to be able to give that trust and sense of security. That's when explosions of creativity can occur.

The failure for many leaders is that they are creating negative states in other people because of their own negative mindset. They can't hold on to positive energy or positive focus. You have to look beyond the pain and frustration to find the opportunities. There are great stories of people who experienced personal and professional catastrophes but were able to overcome it by seeing or creating an opportunity from the setback.

If a leader is held hostage by their emotions, it really limits their potential. You can tell when you're playing life defensively as opposed to playing offensively. Playing to win is a special attitude. This does not mean competition. It means that you take the right risks at the right time. You focus the mind's eye on possibilities and opportunities, not regrets or fears.

A high-performing leader is always thinking about talent development. How can I learn something new? How can I expand what I already know? To be able to do that you can't be held hostage by frustration or failure. You need to be able to practice correctly, and do that over and over without complaining.

I think when people haven't gotten over something or feel like a victim, there's something wrong with their view on life. The most powerful thing that we have is our mindset. The ideal mindset is clear and focused, while being flexible and willing to learn."

How do you overcome obstacles for change in your organization or life? Share your insights in the comments, or tweet them to @DanielGolemanEI.

Further reading:

A self-aware leader is not a self-obsessed leader
How to work with untrustworthy peers
The brain science behind gut decisions
Understanding the science of moods at work
Cultivating a focused workplace

This article first appeared on LinkedIn.