Why a Growth Mindset is Crucial for Leadership

Have you been met with an employee who believed they were incapable of their responsibilities? Someone who you know to be capable, yet often this person is too scared to try.

As a leader, incorporating a growth mindset into your organization can provide the encouragement employees need to be more innovative and accept new challenges. 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, our morals, and the way 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 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 are not enough to acquire skills or achieve success. Dweck wrote that students who have a growth mindset develop a love of learning and resilience. These students also learn more and quicker. The principles of growth mindset expand far beyond the classroom.

Growth mindset vs. fixed mindset

A fixed mindset is one that accepts personal abilities and other qualities as fixed and resistant to change. According to Dweck, students who have a fixed mindset often fail because they believe they will. People with a fixed mindset often find excuses to make sense of their failure that place the burden of responsibility elsewhere. Having a fixed mindset brings about something of a self-fulfilling prophesy. When we believe we cannot do something, we are more likely to fail. That failure then reinforces our beliefs in our shortcomings, and we are more likely to fail again in the future. One of the primary differences between a growth and fixed mindset is fear. Those with a fixed mindset fear that they will look dumb or be perceived as a failure. They often shy away from challenges or learning opportunities because they want to avoid appearing unintelligent. People who have a growth mindset put in more effort and capitalize on opportunities for learning. 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.

Growth mindset in a successful workplace

While Dweck and many other researchers have focused on growth mindset in the classroom, there are important workplace findings as well. Dweck extended her work and research to look at the impact and implications of a growth mindset on organizations. Researchers conducted a survey to determine whether employees of a company had a largely fixed or growth mindset. They then sought to determine how the mindset of the organization 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.

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 come out successful 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.

Inspiring others to incorporate a growth mindset

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 organizational executives and managers do to inspire 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.
  • Incorporate the word “yet": 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 the way they think, speak, and act. If you adopt a grow mindset, your team is likely to follow.
  • Encourage collaboration: In the classroom, this principle is known as shared learning. When people work together to solve problems, they are introduced to new perspectives and approaches. 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 come up with 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 they 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.


The best leaders have a growth mindset, constantly developing 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 be the difference in making your organization one in which employees flourish and find satisfaction at work.

Julie McCracken

Co-Founder & President McCracken


Julie spent the beginning of her career in commercial lending before pursuing her passion for leadership development. She then became a RightPath partner, providing companies with valuable insights on developing their people. Julie has since co-founded McCracken where she finds fulfillment every day supporting companies with their talent development needs.

Want regular insights on finance and leadership?

Subscribe and we will send you the latest articles and resources to help you better run your finance function.