Mindset is one of the greatest predictors of success and one of the toughest turns to make as you become a leader. As an individual contributor, your success depends on what you personally provide. When you contribute successfully, your career evolves, bringing with it new opportunities and upward movement within an organization. And then, one day, through promotion, organizational changes, or some other milestone event, you are deemed a leader. Everything changes. Or does it?
The shift to leadership doesn’t happen like an inchworm that spins a cocoon, undergoes some metamorphosis, and emerges one day as a newly winged leader. It’s much subtler than that. Leadership happens in the nuanced shifts that occur first in the leader’s mind. Before delegation, coaching, or team-building skills are used, individuals need to change how they think about themselves and their role in the organization. They need to adopt certain mindsets that are foundational to leadership success.
We believe four elemental mindsets—growth, inclusive, agile, and enterprise—are critical to being a successful leader today.
Growth Mindset – Having a growth mindset is foundational to leadership success because it supports the premise that people can learn, grow, and expand their skills. When a leader has a growth mindset, they see their own setbacks, and those of the people they lead, as opportunities to be more persistent and try again. Leaders with a growth mindset believe they, and the people around them, get better through effort and persistence. BlessingWhite research points to a mindset of openness as critically important. When leaders are open, opportunities for growth are possible.
Inclusive Mindset – In order for inclusivity to be a part of an organization’s collective conscious as well as its best practices, it needs to be an inherent part of how leaders conduct themselves. Inclusivity is not an extra concept that leaders should do when they get around to it. It’s part of the internal compass that directs their thinking and their behaviors. Gathering other perspectives and new ideas is about consciously seeking diversity while being aware of the unconscious biases that can prevent us from reaching out to others and repeating patterns.
Agile Mindset – Our research shows that leaders value a mindset of openness and adaptability—and with good reason. Having an agile mindset, particularly in the context of an ever-changing business and work environment, is crucial. Digital transformation has altered the level and frequency of information individuals receive. An agile leader has the ability to take in, filter, and assimilate information quickly. They can then reassess their decisions or choose to stay the course, but they must do so with a frequency that reflects the speed of business. Agile leaders are not just resilient—they seek change as a way to spur innovation. They don’t merely anticipate change, they invite it in.
Enterprise Mindset – Finally, today’s leader must increasingly embrace an enterprise mindset. They must think about their goals and their team’s goals in a way that aligns with the goals of the organization. A leader with an enterprise mindset puts the needs of the organization first and foremost—they make decisions based on the greater good. They build relationships for this purpose. They speak up and make tough decisions all in service of organizational needs. A leader with an enterprise mindset pushes beyond group and divisional needs, breaking down siloed thinking with the aim of producing results that benefit the organization.
Culture & Context
Mindset shifts can only be successful for leaders if the culture is supportive. New thinking alone will not drive leadership success, and the best of leader intentions can fall short if senior leadership doesn’t model behaviors that are in line with this thinking. Likewise, performance management and other processes must align if attitudinal changes are to successfully take hold. An organization that promotes a growth mindset but then punishes failure or risk taking will fail to instill this mindset in its people—just as an organization that rewards group and individual accomplishments will have a hard time promoting enterprise thinking.
There are actions that define strong leadership: delegating, holding others accountable, and coaching. These behaviors are the visible evidence that a leader is fulfilling their role. But it’s the mental shift that happens, the attitudes that an individual brings to their role as a leader, that, while intangible, most determines leadership success.
To find out what skills and actions leaders need most to be a successful leader, download our Future Leadership Skills Report entitled Tomorrow’s Leaders Today – A look at What Leaders Need Right Now, and in the Future, to Be Successful.