Motivation and Mindsets

Motivation and Mindsets

Carol Dweck, in her best-seller from 2001, Mindset, taught her readers the concept of a mindset. After studying the behaviors of thousands of children, Dr. Dweck coined the terms “fixed mindset” and “growth mindset” to describe the underlying beliefs people have about learning and intelligence. When students believe they can get smarter, they understand that effort makes them stronger. Dr. Dweck writes: “For twenty years, my research has shown that the view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life.”

If you are contemplating becoming an outstanding leader, you will need a considerable amount of practice. The heavy lifting of practicing leadership can burn people out if they don’t have inspiration and motivation.

Leaders with a “growth” mindset say to themselves, “I believe leaders are made not born, and I know through practice, reflection, and feedback, I can become better.” To become a better leader, you must believe with all your heart that you can become one. The growth mindset is based on a belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate on your own—they are not fixed; everyone can change and improve.

“The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it is not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. It leads to a desire to learn and therefore a tendency to embrace challenges, persist in the face of setbacks, see effort as the path to mastery, learn from criticism, find lessons and inspiration in the success of others.” – Carol  Dweck.

People with more of a “fixed” mindset could be heard to say something like, “I don’t have a lot of charisma and don’t feel like I’m as good as others when it comes to a natural style of leadership. I could be better, but there are so many things that I need to improve. I’m more of an introvert and it’s just not easy for me to lead others.”

“Believing that your qualities are carved in stone—the fixed mindset—creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over. If you have only a certain amount of intelligence, a certain personality, and a certain moral character—well, then you’d better prove that you have a healthy dose of them. It simply wouldn’t do to look or feel deficient in these MOST basic characteristics.”  – Carol Dweck.

Because of this belief, you may feel the need to constantly compare yourself and prove to others that you have what it takes. Additionally, you may search for reasons why you don’t have what it takes. This leads to a desire to look smart and therefore a tendency to avoid challenges and give up easily. Worse, you may ignore useful negative feedback or even feel threatened by the success of others.

From all the work that I have done to help people learn, grow, and change, I have learned that people with a fixed mindset will not develop into extraordinary leaders. People with a growth mindset will be able to grow into extraordinary leaders if they do the work and are motivated to do so. Which mindset do you have?

I love the story of the leader who recalled that, early in his career, he was an egotistical SOB who only cared about himself. Having been a second-generation family CEO, he didn’t place others first and only cared about himself and making his lifestyle better. One day, his long-time administrative assistant unexpectedly walked off her job saying she “had enough and couldn’t take it anymore.” The CEO pleaded with her to stay, but she was so angry and tired of his behavior, she couldn’t stay.

After a month went by, she received a call from the leader who asked if there was anything he could do that would make her come back. Initially, she said no way, and then he asked for more details. Some people have never tried to understand how they land on other people. He didn’t have a clue. For the first time, she thought the CEO might be ready to hear straight feedback and she laid it out for him in no uncertain terms. He was ready, and for the first time in his life, he realized he had to change. Big time wake-up call!

Many of us have things that occur to recognize opportunities for improvement, but we don’t always notice them. I like to tell audiences that “Life is a great teacher, and she will persist until the lessons are learned.” Life often provides many chances to learn something, but many of those are missed because we are not fully paying attention. Great leaders thrive on becoming consummate learners who constantly look for insights and indications that there is a better way to lead others. Those who are continually learning are amazing people and fun to be around. They have an energy about them, and they attract other leaders.

None of us have to wait for a wake-up call to be fully engaged in learning. Great leaders are great learners!

In your planning stage, it is important to assess your mind set. I suggest looking inward to see if your passion to become an outstanding leader is built on a strong and deep foundation. You will need to know your ‘why’ and your motivation will be tested as you develop your skills as a leader. It will happen, your skills will become better, and others will perceive you as a great leader.