How Leaders can foster a growth mind-set?


As a leader, do you sometimes fall into the “trap” of a fixed mindset? Do really find yourself venturing out of your comfort zone and take the risks to develop the abilities you are capable of?

Carol Dweck, a professor of psychology at Stanford University, defines two opposite mindsets that help define one’s ability to adapt and change.

The first is a fixed mindset. People with fixed mindsets tend to believe that their skills, abilities, and talents are static. It’s a limiting approach. Leaders with fixed mindsets tend to be wary of attempting to change and grow.

Someone with a fixed mindset not only believes that his or her talents are static, but ultimately creates a static set of talents and skills because they shy away from the opportunity to change.

A growth mindset is the opposite– therapeutic, empowering, and motivating. Leaders with growth mindsets understand that they are not limited to their current leadership abilities and skills. They’re not always worried about how smart they are, how they’ll look, what a mistake will mean. They challenge themselves and grow.

Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there. John Wooden

So which mindset do you have as a leader? Here are some clues:

If you react to a setback defensively, wanting to hide it, wanting to make up excuses for it, you’re in a fixed mindset. Instead, ask what can I learn from this experience that can help me go forward next time? In the fixed mindset, leaders are so focused on the outcome. Will it make me look good? Will I live up to my reputation? Will people think I’m smart?

In a growth mindset, leaders are focused on the process, the process that you engage in to bring about your successes, and the processes you engaged in that may have created your failures, but you can learn from them and ask how you can perform better the next time. You are in a reflective mode.

So every time you feel yourself trapped in fixed mindset thinking, worrying about a challenge, feeling hostage by a setback, worrying about the result rather than the process, try to flip yourself over into more growth mindset thinking.

So what can leaders do to encourage a growth mindset in their organization today?

Leaders should recognize the efforts, the strategies, the tenacity and persistence, the grit people show, the resilience that people show in the face of setbacks and obstacles. People need to know that bouncing back when things go wrong can be very rewarding to them.

A big part of supporting a growth mindset in the workplace is to convey the leadership values of process, to give feedback, to reward people engaging in the process, and not just a successful outcome.

“I don’t divide the world into the weak and the strong, or the successes and the failures…..I divide the world into the learners and non-learners’ – Benjamin Barber

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