Winning leadership is a game that is typically won between the ears. It's mental toughness that enables a team victory. Here are two habits mentally tough leaders practice.

First, mentally strong leaders check their focus. The things we focus on create a magnet for our lives. Focus on opportunities, and doors seem to open. Focus on problems, and obstacles are plentiful.

Have you ever wondered why the best leaders seem to have all the luck? "Lucky" leaders get the best of themselves and others by focusing on:

  • Others vs. Self
  • Opportunities vs. Problems
  • Gratitude vs. Envy
  • Today vs. Yesterday
  • Humor vs. Drama
  • Giving vs. Taking
  • Controllables vs. Uncontrollables

The more you focus on the "positive side of life," the more you will attract these things. Focus on the comedy a challenge offers and your team will be full of laughs. On the other hand, focus on team drama life offers and your work place will be a soap opera.

Looking at how you spend your time, money and energy is a fool-proof way to check your focus. Time, money and energy are precious resources - your precious resources. They are finite. When you spend them in one place you cannot spend them someplace else. Is your focus mostly on the right or left-hand descriptors above? Your answer will tell you if luck and victory are in your future.

Second, mentally strong leaders control their inputs. Your mind is the ultimate personal computer. Like your laptop, sometimes you might forget to turn on your mental virus protection program allowing negative thoughts to invade your mind - without you realizing it. So, the adage "Garbage in, garbage out" as it applies to your mind should really be "Garbage in, garbage stays."

Your mind never sleeps. You can't pull a "fast one" on it. Whatever your mind hears from others, and especially from you, it records and stores. The mind doesn't discriminate between input that is good for you or harmful to you - it collects all input. If you hear something often enough, you will tend to believe it and act upon it. Your mind can be your greatest ally or worst enemy. Seek positive inputs and you will improve your chances of producing positive outputs.

We draw into our lives that which we constantly think about--good or bad. If you are obsessing about what your boss will do if you make a mistake, then guess what's likely to happen? If you are always thinking about why you can't seem to get a break, or when the next shoe will drop, or what will happen if you can't make payroll, then you are programming your mind (and those around you) to turn these thoughts into your reality. Negative thoughts are landmines along the pathway to being your best.

Mentally tough leaders proactively manage these three common influences that can program us daily.

Television - Studies show that the subconscious mind is most receptive five minutes before we doze off at night, a common time for watching the news. Unfortunately, much of the news today shows the worst side of people and the world. When you hear a news story, remind yourself that it's considered news because it is unusual. Doing so will help you balance potentially negative input with more uplifting thoughts.

So how can you remain well-informed and maintain a positive outlook? Monitor what you watch. Make the choice to watch programs that are more educational, artistic, spiritual or sports and comedy oriented. These types of programs stimulate positive thoughts.

News - Most winning leaders start their day with a news update. Whether it's a glimpse at the headlines or complete reading, there is plenty of positive and negative news to read. Before you dive into the daily news, take a quick inventory of all the things you have to be grateful for. Additionally, make it a habit to finish your reading with an inspiring storyso your mind is primed for a positive day.

Other people--Make the choice to surround yourself with people who offer positive inputs. There will always be negative people and perspectives. Since we cannot hide from them, we must learn to filter out negative input to minimize "garbage" in our thoughts. The best strategy is to intentionally hire and surround yourself with positive builders (vs. negative destroyers).

Build your mental toughness so you can build a tough team.