Why every leader needs a growth mindset, and how to develop one

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Carol Dweck changed my life, and I’m not the only one.


Carol Dweck has changed the lives of millions of people out there with her book “Mindset”. In it she lays out 2 different mindsets, the fixed mindset, and the growth mindset. In simple terms, a fixed mindset assumes that things like talent and ability are fixed, and no matter how much effort is put in, cannot be improved. Whereas a growth mindset says that everything can be improved, as long as we put in the effort and time to get better. Since reading her book (please read it!), I have endeavoured to adopt a growth mindset in every area of my life, and it’s brought great results, such as faster development and better connections with other people.


Adopting a growth mindset is also crucial for every leader. Apart from the wealth of personal benefits that it brings to you, it will also help with 3 major professional areas too:


  1. It will help you bounce back from major set backs


As the growth mindset sees failure as another step on the learning journey, having this mindset really helps when facing failure. You’re able to contextualise it as a learning experience and move on (for more on dealing with failure, see here).


  1. It will help you create a culture of learning and development


The growth mindset tells you that learning is a daily exercise, which helps you develop and improve, this will spread to your team too. Once this happens, you start to access a higher level of performance, and a constantly improving team.


  1. It will help you develop a strong and unified team


With a fixed mindset, everyone is comparing themselves with other people – this is a disaster for a team. The growth mindset removes this. Growth mindset reminds us that we can learn from everyone we meet, and that we are constantly improving and developing. This removes internal competition and creates a strong and unified team.


So it sounds great, but how do you make it happen? Mindset is something that needs to be consciously worked on every day in order to create a lasting change. Here are 5 steps that can help you turn the growth mindset into a daily mindset.


“In the middles of difficulty lies opportunity”

Albert Einstein


A crucial step is to start to see problems as opportunities to learn or conquer something. Seeing a problem and stopping is classic fixed mindset behaviour, so this should be eliminated. When you next encounter a problem, first frame it as an opportunity to learn. Then, methodically look at every possible way around it – don’t be afraid to share with other people or your team too. Consistently doing this will help develop a growth mindset, and will also help you find some great new solutions at the same time!


“Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential”

Liane Cordes


Think about something that you are brilliant at.


Now try to estimate the amount of time that you have spent doing that activity throughout your life.


Finally, think back to the first time you did that thing, were you brilliant at that start?


What you have just visualised is the effect of effort.


If you want to grow, develop and become a master of something, you need to put in the hours – it’s really that simple.


“Success is a journey, not a destination”

Ben Sweetland


When I was younger this was one of my biggest issues – I was obsessed with the destination, and hated journeys! The problem with this approach is you end up spending large parts of the present wanting to be somewhere in the future – you become unhappy. Focusing on the destination is also classic fixed mindset behaviour. To develop your growth mindset, you need to see the pleasure of the journey too. Whether it is your development, your team’s development or a project, try to enjoy every step of the process and don’t just focus on the end game.


“We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.”

Bill Gates


Feedback can sometimes be harsh, and can sometimes be hard to hear, but it’s essential for growth. In the past, I’ve caught myself being very defensive when receiving feedback, and when I did this I never improved. Only by learning to love feedback was I able to really listen and understand it – this has sped up my development exponentially. See feedback as free improvement tips, and you will start developing the growth mindset.


“If you’re never able to tolerate a little bit of pain or discomfort, you’ll never get better.”

Angela Duckworth

This may be #5, but I think it’s the most important point. Living life in the comfort zone is so, so easy. However, the comfort zone is a place devoid of development and growth. If you want to develop, you want to adopt a growth mindset, and you want to be the best leader you can be, you must learn to embrace discomfort. This means put yourself out there, head first into situations that make you nervous, uncomfortable and anxious – and do it regularly.

It’s worth mentioning at this stage that, in my experience, mindset isn’t absolute. This means it’s possible to have a growth mindset in one area, sport for example, and a fixed mindset in another, let’s say cooking. Moreover, some days it will be easier to adopt a growth mindset than others. The crucial part of this is to be aware of your mindset, and try to bring it back to the growth mindset whenever possible.


This is crucial because, the growth mindset is now more important than ever. The world is developing at such a rate that we need to be open to new approaches, we need to learn faster than ever, and we need to be able to handle failure and move on quickly. To be able to keep up, we need to embrace the change happening around us, and to grow with it – and this is only possible when we adopt a growth mindset.