The Mindset for Growth

05 May 2014

Rhodie Miller
Rhodie Miller

Earlier this month I travelled to Berkeley University in San Francisco to attend an Executive Leadership Program on strategies for senior and mid-level female executives in business. The Program specifically focussed on the skills and capabilities that have emerged from research as being more in need of development for women than men.

Some of the most valuable content explored managing career transitions, managing upwards and exploring different leadership styles, influencing others, assertiveness, self-confidence and reading people and situations. One module in particular resonated with me – the Growth Mindset. Leading researchers in motivation define the growth mindset as ‘believing that your most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work.’ New studies by Berkeley’s Juliana Breines and Serena Chen, suggest that selfcompassion, rather than self-esteem, is the key to equipping and preparing executives for greater success.

Self-compassion is described as a willingness to consider your own mistakes and shortcomings with “kindness and understanding” — embracing the concept that to err is human. Leaders who are self-compassionate in the face of difficulty, neither judge themselves harshly, tend to be less emotionally reactive and are more likely to engage in constructive relationships. It’s not surprising therefore, that self-compassion builds a greater sense of well-being, optimism and happiness, and, is instrumental in lessening the likelihood of experiencing anxiety and depression.

Our ability to change is no longer in any scientific doubt. Skills are malleable and success is developed through confronting challenge. The lifelong plasticity of our brains means that through learning and effort, we are capable of improvement and change.

Intelligence and talent are not fixed traits. They can be nurtured and developed. Leaders with a growth mindset are more likely to focus on developing the capabilities of the organisation as a whole, and see road blocks as opportunities for growth.

The stories you tell yourself and your beliefs about yourself will either help or hinder your development. A growth mindset is a critical characteristic that will allow executives improve on their performance and lead more effectively.

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