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The Leadership Workout: Building your mental muscles

Take on the Saboteur and listen to the Sage

Leadership takes place at all levels. Effective organisations believe and expect that each employee can lead. Each employee can become more active and make a significant contribution within the organisation rather than just within the confines of their role.

Leadership now focuses on the interactions, engagement and influence between individuals within an organisation. In this new view of leadership, it is now seen as being distributed across many people within an organisation rather than just a few people at the top.

So, are you ready to lead?

If you plan to run a marathon, you will put in the work to build your fitness. Lots of practice will build the right muscle and make sure you feel fit, strong and ready for the challenge ahead. With any new challenge, you need to some training to prepare and be ready

To build leadership, we need to do the same – we need to build our understanding of leadership and develop core leadership skills (check out the piece we shared on core leadership skills).

A core component of leadership relies on our ability to adapt and regulate our emotions to deal with varying situations and demands from those around us. This is closely paired with our ability to be flexible and able to respond to a wide variety of challenges, demands and positive situations. We need to have deep pockets of emotional and psychological resources to be able to lead effectively. Leadership is less of a destination than it is a journey so we need to have collect practical tools and resources to build our emotional and psychological resources – to build our resilience for success.

Mental Fitness - a new approach for the 21st Century:

More and more of the secrets of our brains are being uncovered by science. As we learn more, we can also put what we learn to work for us. This science is leading to the development of technology, apps and biofeedback devices that help us to measure our sense of wellbeing, our levels of positive emotions and even our resilience. We are developing our understanding of what works and what can have the most beneficial impact on our ability to be at our best and living our best lives.

A new approach that seems to offer this is Positive Intelligence. Developed by Shirzad Chamine, this approach is based on a review and analysis of recent research in neuroscience, positive and cognitive psychology, and performance science. This novel approach examines what works, why it works and develops an approach to building mental fitness. It integrates the science, tools, techniques and understanding of these different approaches to create a structured programme to build mental fitness.

Most excitingly, Chamine’s framework is accessible, easy to understand and put into practice.

What is Positive Intelligence?

Positive Intelligence is an approach with tools and techniques that supports you to boost your Positive Intelligence, or PQ. PQ can be measured and it provides a measure of your mental fitness. Mental fitness is a measure of the strength of your positive mental muscles (called the Sage) versus the negative (Saboteur). This measure of Mental Fitness is called PQ (Positive Intelligence Quotient).

Chamine carried out research with 500,000 participants and found PQ to be the best predictor of how happy you are and how well you perform relative to your potential.

To discover your PQ score, take the free assessment here.

What is Mental Fitness?

Mental Fitness is your ability to handle life’s great challenges without mental stress or other negative emotions. More precisely, it is:

Your capacity to respond to life’s challenges

with a positive rather than a negative mindset.

Mental fitness impacts on your:

  • Peak performance

  • Peace of mind/wellness

  • Healthy relationships

How does it work?

Mental Fitness is measured as a ratio of our positive thoughts relative to our negative thoughts. Low levels of Mental Fitness results in stress, overwhelm, disappointment, anger, shame, anxiety and fear. Our negative emotions tend to be more dominant and affect our performance and perspective.

Positive Intelligence describes these negative emotions and feelings as coming from our Judge and Saboteurs. These are those internal beliefs and self-talk where we judge and criticise ourselves. When we experience a challenge or something difficult, our inner Judge and Saboteurs will usually tell us that we can’t do it. They come from a good place, they want to protect us from failure, but in reality, they hold us back and stop us from achieving our potential. Our Judge and Saboteurs react to challenges in ways that generate negative emotions that drain our energy and hold us back – fear, anxiety, stress, self-doubt and many more.

Chamine’s research identified that we have ten saboteurs. The main saboteur is our Judge, and the Judge has nine accomplice saboteurs

Accomplice Saboteurs

More information on the judge and accomplice saboteurs can be found here.

You can build your mental fitness by actively using positive thoughts and attitudes to deal with life’s challenges. Our inner wisdom, or Sage perspective, helps us to take calm, clear-headed and laser-focused decisions and actions. Our Sage will handle challenges using emotions and attitudes of empathy, curiosity, creativity, self-confidence and gratitude.

Positive Intelligence provides targeted and highly effective tools and techniques that enable you to dramatically boost your Mental Fitness and PQ Score. It focuses on three core mechanisms:

Building your Saboteur Interceptor Muscle

This mechanism focuses on helping you to become aware of your top saboteurs and become skilled at intercepting them, and stopping them before they generate negative emotions when we experience life’s challenges. By building the Saboteur Interceptor Muscle, you increase your awareness of these negative internal voices and stop them from holding you back.

Building your Self Command Muscle

This mechanism targets your ability to manage and regulate your negative thoughts and feelings. It equips you with the tools to quieten the Saboteurs while allowing you to shift to your inner Sage and amplify your Sage voice. Positive Intelligence provides you with exercises that boost your Self Command Muscle like doing reps in a gym can boost your biceps!

Building your Sage Muscle

Your Sage generates positive emotions while handling life’s challenges and is responsible for your greatest happiness and performance. Positive Intelligence gives you neat techniques that enable you to access and shift into your Sage perspective so that you can deal with the challenges and uncertainty of life with greater ease. You learn to boost your Sage and unlock your potential.

These mechanisms and their underlying tools and techniques work together to ensure that you are better able to access your inner Sage and live a happier and more fulfilled life.

Do you want to build your Sage powers?

yellowchair will be launching an intensive six-week Positive Intelligence Mental Fitness programme in November. Find out more about the programme and secure your place on this course here.

Learn more about Positive Intelligence and the Mental Fitness approach here.

To find out more about Shirzad Chamine and the work of Positive Intelligence, visit the Positive Intelligence website.


Chamine, S. (2012). Positive Intelligence: Why only 20% of teams and individuals achieve their true potential and how you can achieve yours. Greenleaf Book Group Press.

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1 Comment

What a superb article Jonathan on the power of Mental Fitness and how it can enable you to take your leadership to the next level! Peak performance for leaders is so reliant on mind-set, so much more than skill-set and to have a 6 week programme that can enable that development is powerful ! To have the capacity to respond to life's challenges with a positive rather than a negative mind-set sounds like such a gift for any leader.

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