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Why a Growth Mindset is Crucial for Leadership

Great leaders understand how to inspire change and continuous improvement, here's how.

Great leaders understand how to inspire change and continuous improvement, here's how.

As a leader, incorporating a growth mindset into your organization can encourage employees to accept new challenges and discover innovations. Keep reading for an overview of growth mindset and how leaders should incorporate it into the workplace.

What is a Growth Mindset?

A mindset refers to a self-perception or beliefs one holds about themselves. Our mindsets can relate to our personal or professional lives. We form mindsets about our abilities and skills, morals, and how we think others view us. 

We are not always aware of the mindsets we hold. Our mindsets, even the ones we are unaware of, can impact how we learn, what skills we acquire, how we form relationships, and more.

Growth mindset has been a subject of focus for many educators in recent years. Carol Dweck, who coined the term and wrote the popular book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, defines a growth mindset as a belief that someone's basic abilities can be developed. A growth mindset views success as achievable through dedication and hard work. Intelligence or talent alone is not enough to acquire skills or achieve success. According to Dweck's research, students with a growth mindset tend to exhibit a passion for learning and have higher levels of resilience. Additionally, they can learn more efficiently and effectively. However, the implications of having a growth mindset extend beyond academic settings.

Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset

A fixed mindset accepts personal abilities and qualities as fixed and resistant to change. According to Dweck, students with a fixed mindset often fail because they believe they will. People with a fixed mindset often find excuses to make sense of their failure, placing the burden of responsibility elsewhere. Having a fixed mindset brings about something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. We are more likely to fail when we believe we cannot do something. That failure reinforces our beliefs in our shortcomings, and, in a vicious circle, we are more likely to fail again. One of the primary differences between a growth and a fixed mindset is fear. Those with a fixed mindset fear they will look dumb or be perceived as a failure. They often shy away from challenges or learning opportunities to avoid appearing unintelligent. People with a growth mindset put in more effort and capitalize on learning opportunities. They view their abilities as a starting point rather than their full potential.

Growth vs. fixed mindset in academic performance: Students with a growth mindset saw an increase in grades throughout their school years, while students with a fixed mindset saw a decrease.

A growth Mindset Leads to a More Successful Workplace

While Dweck and many other researchers have focused on a growth mindset in the classroom, there are also important workplace findings. Dweck extended her work and research to look at the impact and implications of a growth mindset on organizations. Researchers surveyed to determine whether employees of a company had a largely fixed or growth mindset. They then sought to determine how the organization's mindset impacted the company culture, employee satisfaction, collaboration, and more. Companies with a more fixed mindset tended to have employees considered stars or highly valued workers. The fear of failure was prevalent throughout the organization, and fewer employees pursued innovative projects. In organizations with a growth mindset, supervisors felt that their employees were more innovative and collaborative. Employees in these companies reported that they were happier, took more risks, and leaned toward innovation.

The Benefits of a Growth Mindset in Business Leadership

Having established what a growth mindset is and its significance in business leadership, let's look at the benefits of adopting this framework throughout the organization. A growth mindset can prove invaluable in achieving both short-term goals and long-term vision. This section will explore growth mindset's impact on productivity, employee satisfaction, adaptability, and even the bottom line. Each of these benefits contributes to a healthier and more positive work environment and drives organizational success in measurable ways.

Increased Productivity

Employees with a growth mindset view challenges as opportunities to learn and grow rather than as threats to avoid. This proactive approach trickles down to the team, creating an atmosphere where initiative, innovation, and efficient problem-solving are encouraged. A growth-oriented leader is more apt to make decisions based on data, constructive criticism, and an open mind rather than being clouded by ego or fear of failure. This lack of fear reduces friction and prompts action as people are eager to test their ideas, knowing they are supported through success or in the face of unforeseen obstacles.

Increased Employee Satisfaction

In a business landscape where attracting and retaining top talent is increasingly challenging, the importance of employee satisfaction cannot be overstated. A leader with a growth mindset plays a pivotal role in nurturing a workplace culture where employees feel engaged, valued, and fulfilled. Leaders who adopt a growth mindset are more likely to recognize the potential in each team member. Rather than labeling employees as 'good' or 'bad' based on past performance, they provide opportunities for growth and development, boosting morale and satisfaction.

By treating failures as opportunities for learning, growth-minded leaders also cultivate a psychologically safe environment. Employees in such a setting are less stressed and more satisfied because they aren't afraid to take risks or make mistakes.

Increased Adaptability

A growth-minded professional sees change as an opportunity instead of an obstacle. This perspective fosters an organizational culture that prioritizes flexibility over rigidity, making it easier to pivot strategies or adopt new technologies. Being adaptable also means being agile in decision-making processes. Growth-minded leaders are more likely to implement iterative cycles in projects, allowing for rapid adaptations as circumstances change.

Positive Impact on the Bottom Line

DDI's Global Leadership Forecast reports that companies that fail to offer leadership development are linked to the poorest financial performance. Investing in leadership development can be difficult to rationalize because of the difficulty in finding objective measures for attribution. Still, studies repeatedly show that the companies that invest in their leaders outperform their competitors. For high performers, investing in a dedicated coach is one of the most effective ways to advance their potential in a short period.

Leadership Skills in a Growth Mindset

There are many successful leadership styles, depending on the unique situation of the leader and organization. A growth mindset, however, will make a leader more likely to thrive in any situation. Those with a growth mindset face challenges with confidence. Common leadership qualities associated with a growth mindset include:

  • Open-mindedness: A growth mindset requires inclusivity and listening to the unique perspectives of those around you.
  • Comfort with uncertainty: Embracing uncertainty can help you shift from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. We have found that companies go through periods of uncertainty and succeed when leaders see these times as an opportunity to become stronger.
  • Individuality: While like-mindedness is important, individuality encourages innovation, growth, and diversity of thought.

How to Incorporate a Growth Mindset in Your Company Culture

Companies that wish to inspire a growth mindset should invest their time and attention into developing their people. Providing opportunities for employees to grow and improve their skills can help your organization develop strong leaders with complementing leadership styles. There are many things executives and managers do to inspire a growth mindset in others:

  • Recognize effort: When employees are recognized and praised for their efforts, they are more likely to continue and increase that effort. Even in failure, praising the attempt will encourage employees to press on despite the setback.
  • Reframing: Problems are all about perspective. Yet is a powerful word when it comes to growth mindset thinking. Simply adding the word yet can turn negative beliefs on their head. Next time you hear, "I don't know how to do that," add the word "yet" to reframe the situation.
  • Be an example: How you speak and act around your employees influences how they think, speak, and act. If you adopt a growth mindset, your team is likely to follow.
  • Encourage collaboration: This principle is known as shared learning in the classroom. People are introduced to new perspectives and approaches when they work together to solve problems. Collaborating can help boost critical thinking and help your team appreciate the value of listening.
  • Let them struggle: Let others struggle on their own for some time. It may be tempting to jump in, solve the problem and move on to the next thing, but this prevents the development of problem-solving skills. Staying out of the way as someone works through a problem gives them space to think freely and devise a solution you may not have seen yourself.

Growth Mindset and Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is an awareness of your own emotions as well as the emotions of others. In the workplace, growth mindset and emotional intelligence go hand in hand. A growth mindset connects people with their purpose. They have the freedom to be as creative and innovative as they want and are more likely to go the extra mile to reach their goals. Developing emotional intelligence through training, workshops, and practice gives people the perspective they need to shift into a growth mindset. Tapping into emotional intelligence can help shift from negative to positive, opening the door for growth.

Challenges to Adopting a Growth Mindset

Choosing the wrong leadership development offerings can create a misalignment in objectives throughout the organization. Assuming you have chosen the correct development opportunities and management has bought into the idea of instilling a growth mindset, here are some common challenges organizations face when adopting a growth mindset in their culture.

Misunderstanding the Concept

Growth mindset should not be misconstrued as only positive thinking or simply valuing effort. Those are components, but a growth mindset represents a fundamental understanding that abilities can be developed through hard work and dedication. People may also view mindset as a binary state, where you are either fixed or growth-oriented with no in-between. In reality, it may be easier for individuals to recognize growth opportunities in one area of their expertise and not another. Similarly, the organization collectively may have a fixed blindspot in its approach to the market. 

Education and training should be regular to clarify the concept of a growth mindset. Leadership concepts like these will not survive long after a single PowerPoint presentation if they are not continually reinforced. To support the training, encourage an open dialogue, where the discussion can help clarify the concepts for those with questions. 

Overcoming Cognitive Bias

One major hurdle leaders and teams face is overcoming cognitive biases that interfere with objective thinking and growth. These ingrained mental shortcuts can prevent us from fully embracing a growth mindset. Confirmation bias draws our attention toward information confirming our existing beliefs and dismissing evidence contradicting them. This can limit our ability to see things from a new perspective and recognize areas for improvement. Status quo bias tempts us to avoid change. Change is at the heart of growth, so an aversion to change directly opposes a true growth mindset. 

Some strategies to overcome bias include:

  • Regular self-reflection: Practice makes perfect, even within the realm of self-improvement. Take the time to examine possible areas of biases and assumptions and address them. 
  • Encourage diverse views: Differing opinions shouldn't be tolerated; they should be encouraged. Healthy disagreements are the anvil upon which the strongest strategies are forged.
  • Data-driven decisions: Relying on data rather than intuition can help mitigate the impact of cognitive biases.


The best leaders understand growth mindset and constantly develop their leadership skills. These people also have the leadership qualities needed to encourage a growth mindset in their employees. Shifting from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset is no easy feat. It will require a plan and enabling multiple business leadership styles to be successful, but successfully incorporating a growth mindset can make your organization one in which employees flourish and find satisfaction at work. 

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