All great companies have great leaders. This is one of the core characteristics of great companies. They are no doubt some of the most studied leaders the world has ever known. Yet there is often a lot of confusion around what makes a great leader and why they have these characteristics. This post will help you understand why a growth mindset is the most important characteristic a great leader can have.
First, let’s start by delineating between good leaders and “managers”. A manager is someone who carries out the functions of their role (engineering, sales, operations etc.). A leader is someone who inspires and motivates others to go beyond the call of duty and create a positive impact in the world. This post focuses on the latter. The underlying problem with most companies today is a lack of leadership. The difference between an average company and a great company comes down to leadership.
The way that great leaders inspire people or drive growth is through their influence. The most effective way to influence people is through their emotions. The quickest way to motivate people is by connecting with them through common goals, aspirations and values. Leaders who have and encourage a growth mindset will consistently inspire others to use their influence, emotions and connection to create exceptional outcomes.
What is a growth mindset in business?
The general understanding of a growth mindset is that it is a pattern of thought that creates exceptional outcomes in business. It is the ability to see problems as opportunities and the ability to solve problems with tenacity. A growth mindset occurs when we create positive emotions in others by pushing them to be better than they think they can be.
A growth mindset in business is the ability to see and focus on one’s weaknesses as only a temporary obstacle (rather than permanent) that can be overcome with effort or training. When you realize you are a work in progress, rather than an end result, it helps you focus on your current objectives, rather than your past. This is what great leaders do by default. They constantly work on themselves, which leads to greater focus and better results for the organization.
What’s the difference between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset?
A fixed mindset is a belief that people have certain fixed talents and abilities that cannot be changed. A fixed mindset person has a fixed brain, inadequate motivation, and will only pursue things they are mediocre at. When we focus on our weaknesses, we don’t push ourselves to be better. This is because we assume our weaknesses are permanent flaws and there’s nothing we can do about them. We see no growth in these areas, so we assume it isn’t worth working on them.
A growth mindset is a belief that anyone can develop their abilities, intelligence and talents through hard work, learning and proper training. People with a growth mindset believe that everything can be learned. If I wanted to learn to play the guitar I could pick up a beginner’s book and improve my technique over time. If we focus on our strengths then we tend to use them as a crutch rather than work on improving ourselves.
Why having fixed mindset “managers” is bad for business
Fixed mindset companies are driven by managers who have a fixation on their weaknesses. They are constantly working on fixing these weaknesses, which leads to sub-optimal performance and a fear of trying anything new. Many people in leadership positions will hide behind the idea that they have bad days or off days, rather than admitting that they have weaknesses that can be improved upon. There is no shame in having weaknesses and believing they can be improved upon.
Managers who obsess over their weaknesses will eventually cause others to work around them because they feel the effort will be wasted. When that happens the company is negatively affected by those who are simply covering up the weaknesses of others. This is because those in charge become desperate to look good, so they don’t focus on challenges that are important but don’t display their aptitude (i.e. learning a new language or technology. This is a very common problem in many tech companies).
This type of stuck thinking can cause leaders to become entangled in challenging situations that hinder business progress, such as:
- A culture of fear that comes from feeling inadequate to do their job.
- A constant need to have the perfect plan, before any real work is started.
- A fixation on proving that you are correct, instead of admitting you could be wrong and working towards solutions anyway.
- Never try anything new and never push yourself outside of your comfort zone because it will expose your weaknesses (which you will fixate on).
The biggest challenge facing leaders who have fixed mindsets is the need to be right. This is a very destructive mindset as it can increase arguments and conflict in an office and lead to poor performance.
How a Growth Mindset Grows Your Business and Develops Your Team Talent
When we focus on our strengths and push ourselves out of our comfort zones, we create new opportunities and increase the pool of solutions available to us. Having this sort of mindset allows us to move past obstacles, which means that people don’t have to wait around for leaders who may or may not be able to solve their problems. When a leader has a growth mindset it enables them to take more risks and solve more complex problems. They become the ideal person for solving problems because they can complete them without being afraid of failure.
Every time someone’s weakness is exposed and they do nothing to improve it, they create a new way of thinking that becomes a mental block. Once people have a fixed mindset they will stay in the same place and continue to solve the same old problems. They never take risks or try new things because they don’t believe they can be good at them, so why bother doing anything at all?
Leaders who have growth mindsets are always learning something new. They’re always working on themselves and are constantly improving their skillset. They believe that by having a growth mindset they can become significantly better over time. Growth mindset leaders also empower and trust their team more because they are not afraid to admit that they have a weakness, but can still be great at what they do.
A growth mindset leader sees their team members as assets instead of problems and is constantly working on them (without being criticized for it) so that the team improves over time. The growth mindset leader sees each of their team members as unique and wanting to learn new things, which creates a culture of learning in the office. It is not impossible to have a growth mindset in business or in your personal life. If you have a fixed mindset then you can develop a growth mindset by doing the following:
- Have a growth mindset in everything that you do.
- Learn from failures, but don’t let failures define you or your company. Take the information and apply it to improve in the future.
- Stop focusing on what people think of you and focus on who you really are as a person. Only you can change and improve yourself, nobody can do it for you.
- Focusing on your strengths does not mean ignoring your weaknesses. It means focusing on areas that will improve you without worrying about doing something poorly. Put things into practice to get better in these areas.
- Question what people tell you to be true and challenge their beliefs, especially if they are negative beliefs that are holding you back as a team and as an organization.
- Don’t pretend that the world is black and white or that things are guaranteed. There are always options and solutions to problems and never give up on a situation before trying to solve it.
- The most complex problems can be solved if you look at them from different angles. It is easy to get stuck in a mindset that may be flawed, so don’t be afraid to challenge what you know.
How a growth mindset can help scale and propel your company
The growth mindset leader understands that every company has problems, but they also know that the problems can be solved if they try a different approach. It is this ability to think differently and without fear of failing that allows the growth mindset leads to find unique solutions to the problems facing their business.
Having a growth mindset can help your business grow because it will allow you to develop new ways of doing things, adapt to change quickly and create solutions in situations where there are no answers. It will help you to create a sustainable business. Growth mindset leaders are able to take everything that they have learned in the past and apply it to new areas.
They don’t get stuck on one problem or one area of their business and focus on it without moving on. That’s the key because having a growth mindset will help you figure out new ways to become better at what you do. It will allow companies to keep up with market forces and stay secure as new competitors enter the market.
Growth mindset leaders are also more likely to hire more people with growth mindsets, which means that the company continues to grow and develop. That’s because a growth mindset won’t cripple a team or cause it to stagnate. It will only help them become better over time. Growth mindset leaders also know that they have to keep up with new trends and continue to innovate. They are able to recognize problems before they become big and thus prevent them from becoming too big to deal with in the first place.
Growth mindset leaders are able to see the potential in their team members because they’ve taken the time to help them grow. That’s why they’re able to build a company that will last. Growth mindset companies are more likely to keep their customers than companies that think in a fixed mindset way. The growth mindset leader isn’t afraid of challenges and knows that progress is made by solving problems, not by avoiding them.
The growth mindset leader can help their company grow by developing new strategies that will solve the problems that they are facing. Their networks are also wider and thus they have more people to turn to when they need help. Growth mindset leaders can even summon the courage to think outside of the box if needed, which is why they’re able to make more money than leaders who choose failure instead.
What Are Some Ways a Leader Can Foster a Growth Mindset?
As a leader, you should want to keep your team in a growth mindset because you are well aware of the fact that growth mindsets grow companies, and grow companies grow the world. You being enlightened on the importance of developing people’s minds and giving them a better understanding of how we can move forward as a species and as a global community is crucial for making any positive impact.
To help make this happen, you can encourage a growth mindset through various methods, such as:
- Encourage your team to read more.
Encourage your team to read books and articles that will help improve their lives. Ask them to share these readings with each other as well. A great place to start is the free book, “The Growth Mindset: Learning To Change The Way You Think To Fulfill Your Potential.”
- Focus on strengths, not weaknesses.
Focus on what your team members may be good at and channel that in a direction to benefit the company.
- Celebrate positive achievements.
Celebrate the gratitude of your employees when they achieve something new or when they improve their team performance. This will encourage them to believe that they can continue doing things better and better, which will inspire them to keep trying. Encourage them to take pride in what they do and to constantly look for ways to improve themselves as individuals as well as a team.
- Recognize the successes of other people’s growth mindsets in your company.
Knowledge is power, and by being aware of how other CEOs like Elon Musk stimulate their business and how they deal with old thinking and try to come up with new ideas, you will be able to inspire your employees to try anything new because they can learn from the best.
- Coach people individually when they need it.
Any time your team members need more help, step in and ask them if they want to talk about skills they can apply in the job that will help them become better than ever. You are there to listen and to find solutions together.
- Gain a fresh knowledge of the new ways of thinking out there.
Take some time every day to read about new ideas that you can adapt into your business, or read about the latest scientific breakthroughs and how they could transform our lives as a human species.
- Be a role model of productivity.
Be a role model by being productive at all times and help your employees develop into the best version of themselves. It will become contagious, and you can expect them to start working even harder to keep up with you and the company’s growth.
Business Leaders with a growth mindset
Now that we have reviewed all the benefits attached to leaders with a growth mindset, let’s take a look at some of the world’s greatest business leaders with this type of mindset.
Elon Musk – Tesla & Space X
The co-founder and CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, Elon Musk is one of the most creative minds out there. He was able to take over an industry that is tough to break into and had already been around for more than a century by placing innovation at the center of his company’s mission.
The reason he was able to shake up the car industry so much is that he doesn’t try to avoid failure. Instead, he encourages his employees to take chances. Musk is well aware of the high risk involved in starting a new business and thus he knows that if you don’t fail every now and then, you aren’t pushing forward hard enough.
In fact, in an interview with Business Insider, Musk said: “If something’s important enough, you should try. Even if the probable outcome is failure.”
Jennifer Hyman – Rent the Runway
Founder and CEO of Rent the Runway, a company that provides women with access to designer dresses for special occasions through subscription services, Jennifer Hyman is an example of what a leader with a growth mindset can achieve if they keep their eyes on the prize and work hard to make it happen.
In an episode of the TV show, “Shark Tank,” she was asked to pitch her company to five Sharks. She shared her vision for Rent the Runway and listened intently to each investor’s response. After an hour of debating back and forth, the Sharks decided to offer up a $1 million investment into the company.
The growth mindset can be taken even further than that though. We can look at other successful business leaders and learn from them as well. In this next example, it’s not just about embracing new ideas, but it’s also about being able to communicate your idea in a way that makes people believe in you and what you’re trying to accomplish.
Eric Yuan – Zoom
As the CEO of Zoom Video Communications, Eric Yuan is one of the most respected leaders in his field. He has always been passionate about the potential of visual communications technology and he made it a point to study the market to see what was missing.
In just five years, Yuan has been able to transform one of his company’s core product offerings — video conferencing — into a system that can handle hundreds of people at a time and that makes the process for having an online meeting much easier than before.
In addition, Yuan is always on the lookout for ways that he can expand his company’s presence in the market. Zoom Video has a presence in over 70 countries and is expanding to new markets every year.
Steve Jobs – Apple
Probably the most famous of all business leaders with a growth mindset is Steve Jobs. He was the CEO of Apple Inc and powerful force to be reckoned with in the tech world. He took control of one of the most important companies in the world right at its prime, essentially single-handedly turning it around, and then introduced a whole new version of what certain versions of computers could do.
He refused to let his success go to his head, though, instead becoming a leader in the education field because he wanted to share his knowledge of how computers can change people’s lives with the whole world. He helped launch what is now known as the Khan Academy.
Jobs’ greatness was not just in starting new companies and leading them in growth, but also in his ability to inspire others to do things that they had dreamed about doing before but never thought would work.
Satya Nadella – Microsoft
As the CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella has been able to form a team of experts in every aspect of its business and use them as assets to reach its goals.
In addition, he has always had a growth mindset towards the effectiveness of each person’s role in the company. He believes that his employees are each capable of doing their best work if given enough time and resources to do so.
He understands that everyone can and should be able to work at a high level if they are given the right tools, management and support.
Gary Vaynerchuk- Vaynermedia
The notorious CEO of Vaynermedia and best-selling author Gary Vaynerchuk has always had a growth mindset, not just with his business, but also with his goal to live a creative life.
He is well known for being a public speaker, having started the “AskGaryVee Show,” which he runs for about an an hour every day. He has also been featured on the TV show “Shark Tank” and is constantly looking for new ways to create value and make himself useful to the world through his work.
Vaynerchuk has been able to make a profit off of YouTube and has positioned himself to continue expanding his knowledge and connections through it in the future. He never lets failure get in the way of his ability to learn new things and share them with an audience that is eager to hear them.
Ray Dalio – Bridgewater Associates
As the founder of investment firm Bridgewater Associates LP, Ray Dalio is one of the world’s most respected minds when it comes to finance.
He is always looking for new ways to improve his business and increase its earnings. Back in 2012, Dalio set out on a personal mission to become a better leader. He consulted with a number of people who he felt had high leadership potential and took what he learned from them to create a series of unique principles that make up his own leadership playbook.
In an interview with Business Insider, Dalio said: “If you’re not willing to learn, you don’t deserve to succeed.”
Indra Nooyi – PepsiCo
As the CEO of PepsiCo, Inc., Indra Nooyi is one of the most powerful women on the planet. She has led her company to grow bigger and expand into other markets with a growth mindset and a work ethic that she learned from her mother at an early age.
She always finds time to learn new things and works hard to make sure that everyone else in her company does as well.
Nooyi was recently quoted saying: “It’s not whether you’re going to fail or succeed. It’s what are you going to do when you fail and how are you going to learn from it.”