Leadership Mindset Matters

We have been disrupted – all of us. COVID19 has impacted our society, environment, organisations and economy in ways we couldn’t have imagined and it will likely continue to do so for the foreseeable future. 

Many articles, webinars and blogs are stating how different things will be when we ‘come out of lockdown’. Organisations are being told to prepare for the unpredictable, build resilience, look after their staff and adapt quickly.

What this Means from a Leadership Perspective

In general, it’s unlikely that the way things have been done in the past, is what will be needed going forward. 

The ongoing, evolving setting we’re faced with requires adaptive leadership and organisational agility. 

Adaptive leadership is where a leader reviews the situation/context, determines what approach needs to be taken and adapts to suit.

Organisational agility is much the same, but at the organisational level. 

This prospect of constantly adapting may be somewhat daunting for leaders as they wonder if they have ‘enough tools in the toolbox’.  However, rather than needing to know all the answers, one of the most important things for leaders to focus on, is their mindset. 

Mindset Matters

Research and practice have shown that the way we think and feel (i.e. our mindset) about our ability to adapt and learn, has a massive impact on how we face challenging situations and hence, outcomes. 

Growth Mindset (Dr Carol Dweck)

When we have a Growth Mindset we believe it’s possible to develop skills and abilities that will help us manage, as best is possible, given the circumstances. This mindset leads to proactive behaviours (e.g. seeking out support and practicing new approaches) and also helps to alleviate stress and worry. 

Conversely, a Fixed Mindset is when we feel our ability to learn and adapt is limited what we were born with. This can result in us feeling disempowered, stressed and fearful of new or changing situations.  

Benefits for Leaders 

A Growth Mindset is critical for leaders to navigate through our ‘new, unknown normal’. It will facilitate:

  • Psychological safety for you and your teams – not needing to know all the answers, being comfortable asking for help and voicing differing opinions, asking questions and testing assumptions.  
  • Collaboration – being less concerned about ‘owning’ the outcome and more open to ideas that are different to your own.
  • Diversity and inclusion – valuing differing perspectives.
  • Experimentation and creativity – enjoying the challenge of solving a problem and being driven the growth process.
  • Resilience and wellbeing – viewing setbacks as learning challenges and letting go of perfection. 
  • A focus on developing others – as a means to strengthen the team’s ability to adapt and thrive. 

What now?

The good news is that Growth Mindsets can be developed with reflection and practice. Thus, the recommendation for leaders is to; first, start with your mindset. Harnessing a Growth Mindset as much as possible, will support your ability to adapt and lead well in this new reality of ours. 

Tips to Harness your Growth Mindset:

  1. Reflect on the story you are telling yourself (i.e. language you are using) about your ability to manage, adapt and learn. Is it fixed or growth focused (refer to the above diagram)? 
    If it’s fixed, reflect on how this is impacting on your behaviour and feelings. Be prepared to challenge your mindset.  
  2. Put the word ‘yet’ on the end of ‘no good’ type statements e.g. “I’m not good at dealing with change yet” or “my team are no good at dealing with stress yet”.
    Use yet’ as a prompt you to ask yourself and/or others what you/they can do to learn and improve.  
  3. Where possible, try to view challenges and setbacks as a learning opportunity – either technically, or in relation to how you lead. 
  4. Reflect on all you have learnt so far in your profession and life in general (through positive and negative life events)….. that in itself is a demonstration of your ability to grow and adapt. 
  5. If you find yourself really struggling to adapt a Growth Mindset, you might want to consider working a peer on it, or engaging an executive coach who has strong understanding of the Growth Mindset concept and how to develop it. 

Other resources:

For more information contact Gretchen McFadden, Chartered Organisational Psychologist. gretchen@evolutio.co.nzor phone 027 222 6718