Growth Oriented Leadership

Recently I came across an interesting read from Carol Dweck – “Mindset the new psychology of success”. Here Dr Dweck describes two fundamental mindsets and how they affect our companies, sport careers and family life. One called “Fixed” assumes that our intelligence is unchangeable – that there is a congenital talent for being a successful leader, teacher or entrepreneur. On the other hand Growth Mindset says that although there may exist some predispositions, we can primarily  steer our lives through hard work, learning and deliberate practice. With the Fixed Mindset (assuming a permanent intelligence level) we are afraid to take risks or step out of our comfort zones (as this may prove that we ain’t as perfect as we think). The book gives plenty of examples on how the Fixed Mindset strengthens our  tendency to give up easily or see effort as being fruitless. The Growth Mindset on the other hand is not afraid of failure, embraces challenge and sees effort as the main path to mastery. Furthermore, the Growth Mindset being comfortable with uncertainty creates an important pillar of innovation.

Needless to say, we do want to promote leadership guided by the Growth Mindset. Dr Dweck gives many interesting examples which triggered my thinking. Let me try to come up with what that could mean in practice.

Grow your knowledge by learning and deliberate practice

Start with yourself and realize that learning and deliberate practice are inevitable in order to achieve mastery and long term success. Stop seeing an effort as a risk of revealing your inadequacies, start seeing it rather as an opportunity to fill the gaps. True mastery must be backed by a constant process of acquiring new knowledge and experience. Exemplify the Growth Mindset by sharing what you’ve learned and how this affects you – to give a clear signal that intelligence is not carved in stone.

Help people find their individual strategy for growth

Although people may understand the benefits of the Growth Mindset, it is crucial for them to find a suitable strategy for growth. This is where the leader must act and enable different organizational ways that can help in the self-development of employees. Training? Coffee tech-talks? Watch-together sessions? Slack time for pet projects? Those are just a few examples of the different ways to support organic knowledge expansion in organization. We cannot generalize and it is important to provide a high level of autonomy to everyone to choose the right path.

Praise effort

Dr. Dweck gives many examples confirming the beneficial effects of praising effort instead of achievement or intelligence. “you’ve done it so fast, you’re so intelligent” – praising intelligence and achievement like that carries the hidden message that next time when they do something slower they will no longer be intelligent. “excellent you’ve done it without any preparation, you must be smart” – so when I need to prepare I am not smart anymore? As we can see  praising achievement or intelligence is very dangerous. Instead focus on effort, i.e. “good work, you put lot of time into that project”, “it’s really tedious work and I see you’re trying hard to finish it”.

Hire people smarter than you

I have already mentioned this in my previous post. In short – creating the right environment allows you to receive constructive feedback and inspiration from peers around you. Experience and knowledge of your “working crew” stimulates and encourages experiments – a key ingredient of innovation.

Don’t be afraid to fail

Someone once said that road to success leads through many failures. I strongly believe this. Seeing failure as a learning opportunity is powerful tool that will underpin your success. What I can do better next time? What have I learned from my mistake? What 3 things would  I do differently today If I had the chance? What is today’s lesson? Those are just few questions to ask yourself everyday. Every failure is essentially a “growing gate” that if used appropriately allows you to pivot in the direction of success and mature leadership. Think about failures from your past and how they influenced you here and now. If you see this impact now just  think how deliberate learning from failure will allow you to grow even faster.

It’s never too late to experience benefits of the Growth Mindset, it may be easier for some of you, harder for others – but Dr Dweck provides strong evidence that it is definitely worth trying.

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