What growth mindset leaders know about failure
Great leaders understand that to really excel and inspire effort and achievement in others, a growth mindset towards failure is essential. Carol Dweck, psychology professor at Stanford University, first realised that not all attitudes towards failure are the same whilst studying children’s reactions to complex puzzles. Whilst some children would resist being presented with the more challenging demands of a complex puzzle, other children would delight in the challenge, relishing the opportunity to flex their problem solving skills and learn something new.
Dweck’s bestseller, ‘Mindset: the psychology of success’ termed the belief that talent and abilities are innate and more or less set, as a ‘fixed mindset’, whereas a belief that, with effort and perseverance, ability and talent can be developed is described by Dweck as a ‘growth mindset.’ Dweck’s realisation that, to some, challenge and failure are an opportunity, has led to more than four decades of research and discovery on the subject of mindset. Growth mindset leadership is a growing area of interest for leaders who want to excel at getting the best from their teams.
Do great leaders focus on themselves or others?
Rather than constantly ensuring that the spotlight shines only in their own direction, great leaders know that focusing on how they can support others and lead them towards a growth mindset is key to organisational success. Growth mindset leaders don’t believe that talent and ability are fixed but that with effort, abilities and skills can be nurtured, encouraged and developed. Great leaders actively seek ways to encourage and motivate others to regard effort as a route to mastery. Leaders who foster a growth mindset within their organisation realise that the rewards reaped by their approach will naturally reflect their own growth mindset leadership skills.
How can growth mindset leadership bring out the best in others?
Great leaders encourage their reports to flex their problem solving abilities by promoting appropriate risk taking which in turn, fosters innovation and creativity. Ensuring that teams understand that failure is part of the process that guarantees deeper learning and improved performance guarantees that individuals and teams know that they’re safe to stretch their skills and abilities by taking on challenging tasks and projects without fear of the repercussions of failure.
Growth mindset leaders are explicit with the message that harnessing failure can be a recipe for success. They encourage their people to acknowledge effort and
- examine what went wrong when goals are not achieved,
- encourage their reports to ask how can things be done differently in future.
- Ask, how have doubts and challenge been overcome in the past and how can such past experiences be applied to current challenges and setbacks?
Growth mindset leaders lead by example
An authentic leadership style that demonstrates the ability to walk the talk is an essential part of fostering a growth mindset in any business organisation. Growth mindset leaders demonstrate that a love of challenge, an appreciation of effort and a willingness to collaborate and grow are key requirements for success.
It’s not enough for leaders to merely espouse a growth mindset approach, they need to actively demonstrate a growth mindset in everything that they say and do, from setting out a vision for success to the way in which they interact with their people. A truly growth mindset leader will consistently see potential in those that they lead and provide multiple opportunities to foster and develop an organisational culture that prizes effort and perseverance, as well as results, in order to achieve excellence.
Take the PCG Growth Mindset Leadership Test to find out if you’re a growth mindset leader that others want to follow.
Viv Thackray is a growth mindset expert at Positive Change Guru, working to help small and large companies and organisations to develop a growth mindset approach. The Financial Times, Spotify, The Wellcome Trust and Sport England are amongst the organisations she has worked with.
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