One of the most popular concepts recognised for facilitating our ability to develop is a Growth Mindset. Carol Dweck coined the term over 30 years ago through her work with children and it’s an idea that has caught on in the business world too. But what actually is a Growth Mindset, why is it useful to have one and how can you and your leaders develop one?
“Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile” - Vince Lombardi.
While others may have shared this sentiment before him, it is Vince Lombardi, NFL Head Coach who is most famous for this quote. Lombardi was right. Some individuals may have a more natural tendency to be leaders, but great leadership relies on the ability to grow and develop.
What is a Growth Mindset?
A Growth Mindset is the assumed antithesis of a Fixed Mindset. People with a Fixed Mindset tend to think that their abilities cannot be changed – when they cannot solve a problem, they attribute this to not having the skills so stop trying. People with a Growth Mindset tend to think that their abilities are capable of increasing. If they can’t do something their approach is not ‘I can’t do it’ but ‘I can’t do it yet’. When faced with a difficult problem, they continue trying, understanding that the ability to solve it will come with effort.
In truth, a ‘pure’ Growth Mindset and complete absence of a Fixed Mindset does not exist. We are all at risk of falling victim to our inner critics. When we face challenges, are criticised, or fall short of the achievements of our peers, we can easily feel insecure or defensive, reverting to our fixed mindsets of ‘I can’t do this’ or ‘I’m not good enough’. However, the ability to silence that inner critic and adopt a Growth Mindset is key for leaders.
Why should we strive for a Growth Mindset?
Research has shown that those who demonstrate a Growth Mindset are more likely to persist and develop the things they’re not good at, which ultimately leads to better performance (1).
What’s more, our rapidly changing environments constantly present us with new challenges we may not yet know how to handle. A Growth Mindset isn’t just nice to have to continue to develop your skills for the current environment, it’s a necessity to enable us to successfully navigate through ongoing change, where leaders often have to move forwards without all the answers. If leaders demonstrate a Fixed Mindset, their response to change may be: ‘I don’t know how to lead in these unprecedented circumstances, I can’t do it’. It’s easy to see why leaders who are able to adopt more of a Growth Mindset are a more attractive option to have at the helm, in times of change their response may be: ‘I have the ability to learn and adapt to ensure I remain successful in this new context’.
Having a Growth Mindset is key to leaders’ enduring success. We’ll leave you with this closing question: What is one thing you can’t do yet and what are you going to do about it?