Mindset Of The Leader – Part 3

Mindset Of The Leader – Part 3

Written by: Cahide Akkuzu

Reading time: 6 minutes

I started Part 1 of this article by saying that your attitude towards yourself can be your biggest friend or your foe. Based on the research of Stanford professor Carol Dweck, I described two main attitudes that have a major impact on our success: “Fixed Mindset” and “Growth Mindset”. Read Part 1 by clicking:


In Part 2 we looked into how we can change our attitude towards ourselves. I shared 14 different suggestions that help transform our mindset from a fixed one to a growth mindset. Read Part 2 by clicking:


In this last part we will be looking at how you can create your growth mindset as a person in a leadership position. We will also be looking at how you can create growth mindset in your team and the organization that you lead.

Raymond Dalio, who ranked 88th in the list of the world’s wealthiest people in 2021, is the founder of the world’s biggest hedge fund firm, Bridgewater Associates. He is a world-renowned investor and philanthropist. Bridgewater Associates, with its 15 thousand employees, profitably manages the investments of 350 customers, consisting of the world’s leading private and public institutions, totaling 154 billion dollars. Ray Dalio has already climbed to the top of the list of legendary leaders of the business world with the corporate culture that he created. He puts all his focus on creating a corporate culture where employees realistically assess themselves, always seek to find the truth, and always develop themselves. Ray Dalio wants his employees to achieve the things they desire in life and develop so that they can understand and overcome their own internal limitations. Correctly diagnosing problems is the key to learning about the sources of peoples’ limitations. Searching for radical truth and radical transparency are at the heart of the culture and the reason for the companies success.  Serious time is devoted to the problems that people experience in their own development journeys, diagnostic meetings are held, feedback is given, and their progress is monitored carefully. Employees are responsible for their own development. What Ray Dalio does not accept is to soften the problems or jumping to solutions without unearthing the limitations that caused the issue. He summarizes this approach with the following words:

“Do you worry more about how good you are or how fast you are learning?”

While reading about the culture at Bridgewater Associates you may be in a dilemma as to whether I am describing a charity that has undertaken the development of people as a mission or the culture of a successful company. Astonishingly, this is the company culture of a large investment company with many awards, one of the most successful and profitable companies in the world in its field. Looking at Bridgewater Associates, it’ s obvious that the leader of this organization, Ray Dalio, plays an important role in creating the growth mindset culture that I just described.

So how do we develop our growth mindset as leaders? The definition of a leader, regardless of title, is anyone who is driving a process to achieve an objective. It can be an individual contributor, someone responsible for a business or product, someone leading a department or the whole company. As a leader, you can follow these practical steps in order to develop and further strengthen your growth mindset:

  1. Develop self-awareness around your own mindset. Notice and be curious about when you are approaching a situation with a fixed mindset. Are you having trouble criticizing your team? Are you having trouble leading people? Do you get upset when someone criticizes you? If you are approaching a situation with a fixed mindset, you need to recognize it and think about how you can reframe it.  Think of an instance where you experienced unexpected positive change within yourself. What do you attribute those changes to? How would you make such an improvement happen again? Carol Dweck suggests asking yourself the following questions:
    1. Are there ways I could be less defensive about my mistakes?
    2. Could I profit more from the feedback I get?
    3. Are there ways I can create more learning experiences for myself?
  2. As a leader, keep being modest. Dweck’s research explains that great managers don’t try to prove that they are better than others, and don’t undermine the people around them to increase their own power. They focus on improving themselves, and building teams of really great people, who continuously grow and develop. If you’re managing a team, think about the way you act in the workplace towards others. Do you focus on your own power, and achievements, more than on your employees’ successes and well-being? Find ways you could re-adjust your focus. Look for opportunities to give and share credit to your team for work well done.
  3. Ask for feedback! One of the most effective ways to improve your growth mindset is to ask for feedback. The famous leadership development consultants John H. Zenger and Joseph R. Folkman shared the results of their research with 27,000 leaders in their leadership development book “How to Be Exceptional”. According to the results of their research, the most effective leaders are those who seek opportunities for feedback and receive feedback. The key approach is to look for opportunities and to create the habit to ask for feedback. An article in Strategy+Business magazine can help us gain insight into this situation. Receiving and giving feedback is a source of stress. Asking for feedback, rather than giving feedback unprompted, may help to develop a growth-mindset culture. New York University psychologist Tessa West and her colleague Katherine Thorson, ran a study at a major consultancy that tracked people’s heart rates during mock negotiations. Afterwards, each participant took turns giving and receiving feedback. Certain groups were instructed to ask for feedback, while others gave it unprompted. The findings showed giving feedback was just as anxiety-producing as receiving feedback. However, when people received feedback that wasn’t asked for, their heart rates jumped around erratically. Asking for feedback could hold the power to make discussions less painful. When people know to ask for feedback, they feel in control. They feel psychological rewards of autonomy and certainty. They can steer the conversation wherever they choose and feel confident about which topics will get discussed. Givers also feel more certainty, because they no longer have to guess what kind of information will be most useful. To develop a growth mindset culture, leaders can take the first steps by asking for feedback themselves. Gradually, people will feel safer asking for feedback if they know the resulting discussion will be productive, not threatening. As a leader, when you clearly state on which subject you want the feedback, the benefit of the feedback will increase. Just saying thank you instead of defending can save you time to evaluate what you have heard.
  4. Discover the power of ‘Yet’! This approach, which seems very simple, will change the way you look at yourself. If you find yourself facing a challenge that you cannot overcome, try saying “I can’t do this yet” instead of saying “I can’t do this”. This small change in mindset can have a lasting impact on your ability to work through solutions and stay motivated.

So, how will you foster the growth mindset of your team and your organization? One of your most important responsibilities is to create a company culture. By now, we know from many examples that a growth mindset company culture is the key to success. From the very beginning, when you start practicing the practical steps above and become a role model as a leader, you will find that your followers will also start to change their mindset. These practical steps will also support you on your journey:

  1. First, share knowledge and raise awareness about growth mindset and fixed mindset in your team. Create a desire for them to move forward to have a growth mindset, discuss, and exchange ideas together on how they will benefit in all areas of their lives – including their professional life. To reveal their true potential, focus on the benefits that this development will bring to them. Convey that the organization values learning and perseverance, not just ready-made genius or talent.
  2. Tell your team about your belief that competencies are learnable. Emphasize that it is natural to make mistakes while learning, but they must make extraordinary efforts. Encourage them to come out of their comfort zone and learn from their mistakes and encourage them to develop new and creative ways. One of my favorite quotes about leadership comes from Ronald Heifetz. In his book ‘Leadership on the Line’ he says that: “leadership requires disturbing people—but at a rate they can absorb.”  Get your team members out of their comfort zones and disturb each member of your team at a level they can tolerate.
  3. Never punish mistakes! As Einstein said: “A person who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” It’s important to create a space where failure while learning is accepted. To get your team comfortable with this idea, you can share stories about times when you were not successfuland failed at something. Be honest about how you’ve overcome obstacles too. Criticize lack of effort, wrong diagnosis, poor learning and inadequate new methods of development. Provide data-driven feedback on these issues. Coach your team to improve their attitudes and behaviors, encourage them to coach each other, and make them set goals for themselves.
  4. Be a role model! We all have a mix of a growth mindset and a fixed mindset. It is not possible to have a purely growth mindset, and it is wrong to create such an expectation. Share your development journey with your team! What worked and what challenged you. Share how you manage to get out of the situation when you found yourself in a fixed mindset. Share what you learned from your mistakes. Create an environment where your team feels safe to share their successes and failures.

When we change our attitude towards ourselves, we can reach our true potential and encourage others to do so as well.  We can make progress on anything we focus on and we can overcome any challenge on our way.

“It’ s not that I am so smart, it’ s just that I stay with problems longer.”

Albert Einstein

Context Professionals Corporate Coaching and Consulting



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