Can you be an Effective Leader without a Growth Mindset?

Over the last couple of months, while anticipating, undergoing and recovering from major surgery, I've had pause to think a bit about the future. Not so much the future, but my future. Glimpses of mortality tend to concentrate the mind a bit. 

I’ve emphasised the and my because the distinction is pivotal to what I've been thinking about - that I don't have much influence over the future but I own my future for as long as I am me. ‘Owning my own future’ is a mindset – a personal belief.

That mindset has allowed me to make a couple of changes; collecting recipes so I can cook better and more often; getting Lightbox so I can watch more of the TV I want, when I want it; and reducing my work time from five days to four days a week to give me more time for more of the other things I want to do. 

That I can make these changes isn’t because I am self-indulgent or because I own my own business; it is because I have a change mindset and I have exercised the will to make the changes I've chosen.

In my training work I see and hear a lot of people claiming they have insufficient time or other pressing priorities that stop them from making the changes they want to make. Ironically, such claims are often made within the context of leadership programmes that aim to empower and support personal leadership practice changes at work. 

Failure to take up these change and personal growth opportunities is a mindset issue. The leadership literature talks about a growth mindset as a common factor uniting successful leaders. A growth mindset stimulates good leaders to develop their leadership skillset by deploying the appropriate toolset. If the mindset doesn't embrace growth and change, then growth and change are just not going to happen.

Good training programmes for leadership provide a toolkit and support improvement in the skillset. However, they generally can’t change you from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset – you have to do that for yourself.  And here’s how:

  1. Work with the best information. Inform your views with reliable and tested information – don’t be swayed by unsourced information and ill-informed opinion. Don’t ignore the facts or the informed views of others.
  2. Role model the best people. Take a lead from the mindset of successful people that you admire.
  3. Examine your current beliefs. Become self-aware about your mindset and how it may be limiting you. Be honest with yourself.
  4. Shape your mindset with Vision and Goals. Be clear about where you want to be. Break that journey into steps. Your ‘new’ mindset will embrace that.
  5. Create your own story. Understand your meaning and purpose in life and authentically step it out.
  6. Be confident. Protect your mindset from negative influences.

Fixed mindsets are a real challenge for business, especially where they are held by people in leadership roles. These ‘leaders’ can erode culture, impede organisational change and contribute to inefficiency. And because mindset change is such a personal thing, it's difficult for organisations to turn these ‘leaders’ around. 

To mitigate against recruiting or promoting fixed mindset people into leadership roles, business might be wise to invest time in better pre-employment/pre-promotion checking of mindset. This will help to avoid issues in the future including having to adopt lower expectations or the redeployment out of people leadership roles for those with fixed mindsets who are on board now.

Kyran Newell