Mentally tough performers are disciplined thinkers who respond to pressure in ways which enable them to remain feeling relaxed, calm and energised because they have the ability to use positive energy in crisis and adversity. They also have the ability to have the right attitudes to problems, pressure, mistakes and competition.

Mental toughness includes self confidence, knowing that one can perform well and successful. Negative Energy Control, handling emotions such as fear, anger, frustration and coping with externally detrimental events. Attention to Control (Focus) visualisation and imagery control, thinking positively in pictures. Motivation and willingness to persevere through personal conflict and attention to detail.

Mental toughness is having the natural or developed edge that enables you to cope better than your competition with the demands of business and lifestyle to reach high levels of consistency.

1. Flexibility. Executive leaders have the ability to absorb the unexpected and remain supple and non-defensive. They maintain humour even when the situation becomes tough. If something isn't going well or doesn't turn out as expected, they remain flexible in their approach and look for new ways to solve the problem. Just like a player faced with a broken play, a leader may have to decide quickly on a different way to get the ball down the field.

Also, leaders must continually be open to re-educating themselves, even in the basics, which they may have taken for granted for too long. They need to exercise caution in defensively falling back on ideas they know and are comfortable with rather than looking for new ways of doing business.

2. Responsiveness. Executive leaders are able to remain engaged, alive and connected with a situation when under pressure. They are constantly identifying the opportunities, challenges, and threats in the environment. They understand that they need to think differently about how their environment and business operate.

The problems we encounter now are messier and more complicated than ever before. They often can't be solved in the ways others were. Executive leaders look for new ways to think about these problems and, more important, look for fresh ways out of these problems. They have a sense of urgency about responding to the changing face of business.

We must pay close attention to and understand global, national, regional and local economic trends, market trends, consumer trends, industry trends and competitor responses. Relying on old assumptions about how business operates and assuming that last year's trends still hold today is dangerous. Leaders make decisions and act based on up-to-the-minute and in-depth knowledge of what is really going on in business now.

3. Strength. Executive leaders are able to exert and resist great force when under pressure and to keep going against insurmountable odds. They find the strength to dig deep and garner the resolve to keep going, even when in a seemingly losing game. They focus on giving their best and fighting hard until the end, with persistent intensity throughout the planned year forecast.

Just as athletes dig deep to find the physical and psychological strength to continue through adverse and tough situations, executive business leaders must exhibit the same strength. As James Loehr puts it, top athletes think, "While this is tough, I am a whole lot tougher." Executive business leaders bring the same intensity, through all the continual pounding.

4. Courage and ethics. Game-ready leaders do the right thing for the organisation and the team. They suppress the temptation to cut corners or to undermine others so they come out on top. They have the courage to make the hard but right decisions for the organisation.

A famous story as an example of courage and ethics in sports is that of the tennis player Andy Roddick. In 2008 Roddick was the No. 1 seed at the Rome Masters. He was at match point and about to win. The umpire called his opponent for a double-fault serve. Walking to shake his opponent's hand, Roddick noticed a ball mark on the clay--in bounds. Roddick got the umpire's attention and pointed out that the ball had nicked the line but was in fact in bounds. The match continued. Roddick went on to lose the match, and his beyond-the-call-of-duty honesty made him famous as an upstanding person, an opponent who would do the right thing. Game-ready leaders in business do the same.

PepsiCo provides a great business example of this. A disgruntled Coca-Cola employee and two other individuals attempted to sell proprietary information to Pepsi. Pepsi received a package containing a sample of a new Coke product and other information. Pepsi immediately informed Coke, which contacted the FBI. Executive business leaders ultimately win by making the right and courageous decisions.

5. Resilience. Executive leaders rebound from disappointments, mistakes and missed opportunities and get right back in the game. They have a hardiness for enduring the downs of a situation. They remain optimistic in the face of adversity and quickly change when necessary. They resolve to make things better and are experts at figuring out ways to do more with fewer resources.

6. Sportsmanship. Executive leaders exhibit sportsmanship. They don't let the opponent know when he or she has gotten them down. "Chin up,". Clearly we all experience disappointment, attacks from others, an occasional blow to the stomach. However, the behaviour exhibited by executive leaders after losing or being attacked by others or the situation sets the tone for the rest of an organisation.

We all need these same markers of toughness to succeed and lead in today's business environment. We cannot succeed on technical skill alone. Companies have tough questions and situations to address. Game-ready leaders go into today's business environment with their best mental game and with the attitude of "Bring it on!" After all, who doesn't love the challenge and fun of a demanding, complex game?

Critical Questions

How do people respond when they encounter challenges?

How do they respond to criticism, usually when mistakes happen, will they comeback stronger or wither?

Will they hide, have excuses and blame or see people take responsibility for their actions?

Do they choose the easy or the best option?

Do they prefer to push themselves or stick to their comfort zone?

How do they respond to pressure situations, would they resemble a rabbit in the head lights or peak to maximum performance?

Answers will tell you a lot about employees, often not the ones who shout loudest create most noise or upper most in intimidation have the loyalty and strength to achieve. Sometimes fear can be dressed up as toughness, a sign of weakness rather than strength.