In her book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,” Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., explains that with the growth mindset, “the hand you’re dealt is just the starting point for development. This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts, your strategies, and help from others.”
This is in comparison with the “fixed mindset,” where the author explains that someone believes that “your qualities are carved in stone.
With a fixed mindset, if you don’t like the cards you were dealt; too bad.
With a growth mindset, we can simply pick up new cards by trying harder, finding effective ways to learn, and getting support from others.
A growth mindset is important in leadership for one primary reason.
You are dealing with people, and people are messy.
As the saying goes, “the more animals in the barn, the more ‘doodoo’ to deal with.”
Different people, different goals, different dreams, different perspectives, different outlooks, different strengths, and different weaknesses.
Leadership is not one size-fits-all.
As such, we can’t rely on our natural abilities and talents alone.
We need to develop ourselves.
We need to have a growth mindset.
Traits of a Growth Mindset in Leadership
In their book “The Laws of Lifetime Growth: Always Make Your Future Bigger Than Your Past,” authors Dan Sullivan and Catherine Numera state that growth “is at the root of everything that gives us a feeling of accomplishment, satisfaction, meaning, and progress.”
1. Imagination and Vision
Without growth, we feel empty inside.
What traits should a leader exhibit or develop to have a growth mindset?
Here are a few key traits.
Dan Sullivan and Catherine Numera have a creative way of making reference to someone with vision.
It would be a person who “always makes their future bigger than their past.”
I think we all know somebody on the opposite end of the spectrum.
That person who always makes their past bigger than their future.
These are the people who spend more time talking about “the glory years” than about what’s going on right now.
They were the star football player in high school, the prom king or queen, or maybe they were even the valedictorian.
They reached their peak somewhere between their late teens and their early twenties.
They succeeded through raw talent alone, but because they had a fixed mindset, that was the end of their story.
They found some job, where financially they are barely getting by, and blame fate for their demise.
A visionary leader looks toward the future, not the past.
They visualize traveling roads not yet built, and accomplishing things not yet done.
A visionary leader sees the greatness of tomorrow that did not exist today.
Growth is not for the timid.
It requires getting outside of your comfort zone and doing things you haven’t done before.
Leaders must be bold and be willing to change.
As Tony Robbins puts it: “Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.”
Pain is a great teacher, but it takes courage to apply what you learn.
A courageous leader is not necessarily someone who lacks fear.
A courageous leader merely chooses to move forward despite their fears.
Indifferent leaders don’t last long in leadership positions.
They have reached their peak, and they have nowhere to go but down.
Meanwhile, curiosity is like air to a growing leader.
Learning is filling the lungs with air, and applying what you learn is exhaling.
If there are skills that need to be developed, a curious mindset is a catalyst towards that development.
Leaders face obstacles head-on.
They view challenges as opportunities to learn and grow.
When faced with failure, they bounce back from any setbacks.
Resiliency is a key component of a leader’s ability to grow.
A good leader knows that goals are written in stone, but plans are written in sand.
Those who try to set their plans in stone quickly find themselves among the pterodactyls and velociraptors – they cease to exist.
Leaders know they need to agents of change.
They must adapt
Adapt to new trends.
Adapt to changes in technology.
Adapt to shifting customer demands.
For a leader, the ability to adapt is a way of life.
Adapt or become obsolete.
Strategies for Cultivating a Growth Mindset in Leadership
Knowing what traits a leader with a growth mindset has is only half the battle.
Finding the appropriate steps to help you develop a growth mindset is another battle entirely.
Here are five action steps you can take to develop a growth mindset.
1. Embrace Challenges
Leaders don’t have the option to give up.
They need to encourage themselves and their teammates to look at challenges as opportunities to learn and develop.
Leaders need to foster a culture that promotes getting out of one’s comfort zone and taking on new or difficult tasks.
2. Learn from Failures
Failure is not fatal.
It is an essential part of a leader’s development.
Leaders need to look at their failures as learning opportunities, not as setbacks.
Encourage others to openly discuss their mistakes and use them as opportunities to identify areas for improvement.
3. Seek Feedback
We can’t always see where we are going wrong.
We have blind spots
Due to our possible oversight, leaders need to actively seek feedback from peers, mentors, and team members to gain different perspectives and insights.
This feedback should be constructive and allow the leader to adapt and grow both personally and professionally.
4. Foster a Learning Culture
Nothing grows unless it is fed the right food.
Plants need plenty of water and sunshine.
Koala bears require a diet primarily consisting of eucalyptus leaves.
A gorilla’s diet consists of vegetation, including leaves, stems, fruits, and bamboo.
And a growing team needs a learning culture.
They need access to diverse resources and training programs.
An environment must be fostered where experimentation is encouraged.
A culture where open communication is welcomed.
Knowledge should be shared with the entire team.
The leader builds the culture, and the culture builds the team.
Benjamin Franklin: A Model of Growth Mindset Leadership
Benjamin Franklin stands as a remarkable example of a leader with a growth mindset.
He was born on Milk Street in Boston, Massachusetts, on January 17, 1706.
Even in his childhood along the Charles River, Franklin was recognized as “the leader among the boys.”
His father, limited by finances, wished him to attend school with the clergy but could only afford two years at Boston Latin School.
Despite attending, he did not graduate.
Instead, Franklin continued his education through voracious reading.
His parents’ suggestion of a church career ended when Franklin was only ten, leading him to work for his father.
By age 12, he became an apprentice to his brother James, a printer, who taught him the printing trade.
At 17, Franklin sought a fresh start in Philadelphia, using his experience to gain employment at several printing shops.
A stint in London, initiated by empty promises, saw Franklin working as a typesetter in a printer’s shop.
During his time in London, at 20, Franklin aspired to become morally perfect.
He selected thirteen virtues to acquire, focusing on one at a time before moving to the next.
Arranged in a specific order, with Temperance first, he aimed to maintain vigilance and guard against temptations.
Daily examination was crucial, leading to the creation of a book with a page for each virtue and seven columns for each day of the week.
Franklin hoped to complete a course in thirteen weeks and four courses in a year, cultivating the habit of all thirteen virtues.
Originally twelve, he added Humility based on a Quaker friend’s feedback about perceived pride and arrogance.
Franklin refrained from direct conflict and positive declarations, opting for phrases like “I conceive,” “I apprehend,” or “I imagine.”
This change had many advantages, making conversations more pleasant, and his opinions more readily accepted.
Franklin, displaying natural talent, identified 13 areas for improvement, challenging himself in tasks not necessarily easy.
From Benjamin Franklin’s application of the 13 virtues, we can learn three key things:
Most people only think of resolutions as something we commit to during New Years.
But resolutions are something we should be applying to our lives all the time.
By making the fim decision to improve in some area, you will find yourself further ahead then most.
Commit to your resolutions.
2. Track Your Progress
Ben Franklin was not content with just saying he was going to change.
He implemented a system to help him track his progress.
Tracking is key to change.
Runners track their miles.
Dieters track their calories.
Wealthy people track their finances.
If you want to improve in a specific area, keep track of your progress.
A friend of Franklin’s had pointed out something he noticed in Ben.
While Franklin was brilliant, people didn’t care too much for him.
They considered him rude and brash.
While this may have bruised his ego to hear, he took the Quaker friend’s words to heart.
He took responsibility of his actions, and decisions.
One powerful way to hold yourself accountable is through an accountability partner.
Have someone you know and trust that can assist and support you in achieving your goal.
This can be done by providing encouragement, guidance, and honest feedback.
While Franklin’s friend may not have been considered an accountability partner at the time, his friend did provide honest feedback, and I would like to think he supported Franklin on his self-improvement journey.
By dedicated his life to pursuing those 13 virtues, Ben Franklin is a great example of someone who lived with a growth mindset.
Cultivating a growth mindset in leadership empowers leaders to view their potential as flexible and expandable, enabling continuous development and adaptation.
This mindset allows leaders to navigate through complex human interactions by fostering imagination, vision, courage, curiosity, resilience, and adaptability.
To cultivate this mindset, leaders must embrace challenges, learn from failures, seek feedback, and foster a learning culture.
Benjamin Franklin’s dedication to the pursuit of 13 virtues underscores the significance of resolutions, tracking progress, and embracing accountability.
His journey illustrates the transformative power of a growth mindset, crucial for driving leadership success through perpetual self-improvement and adaptability.
As a leader, we should follow Franklin’s example and do our very best to develop a growth mindset.
My name is John, and I’m thrilled to introduce myself
I am a dedicated husband to my wonderful wife and a proud father of two amazing children. In addition, I am blessed to be a loving papa to three adorable grandchildren. These roles bring immense joy and fulfillment to my life.
Two titles i identify by, that tend to grab attention: Leadership Advocate and Storyteller. These two titles are closely intertwined and warrant further explanation.
To me, being a leader means being an effective communicator. I firmly believe that storytelling is one of the most powerful ways to convey a message and connect with others. A good leader possesses the ability to inspire and motivate through the art of storytelling.