Are you a Growth-Oriented Leader

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By Angela Mutiso and Ochara Clive

Commit To Continuous Learning and Skill Development

This year, Satya Nadella celebrated his tenth anniversary as the CEO of Microsoft, marking a transformative period for the company under his leadership. When he took the reins of the company in 2014, Nadella inherited a company grappling with internal conflicts and stagnation, veering towards obscurity. 

Earlier that year, Nadella’s wife, Anu, had gifted him Carol Dweck’s best-selling book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,” sensing it might offer insights for Microsoft. Nadella adopted Dweck’s concept, urging employees to transition from the company’s entrenched “know-it-all” culture to embrace a mindset of continuous learning and curiosity, coined as a “learn-it-all” approach.

Nadella’s strategic approach involved several vital elements. Firstly, he acknowledged the fast-paced evolution of the tech industry and advocated for everyone at Microsoft to embrace change. This included fostering a culture of creativity, encouraging risk-taking, and promoting new ideas, all of which facilitated the company’s transition from traditional software to cloud-based services.

Secondly, Nadella emphasized collaboration as essential for success. He dismantled silos and promoted teamwork, enabling different teams within Microsoft to collaborate effectively. This collaborative culture fostered innovation and drove the creation of new products and services.

Nadella strongly emphasised diversity and inclusion, recognizing their importance in driving innovation and ensuring broad customer representation. By diversifying its workforce and fostering an inclusive environment, Microsoft achieved significant progress under Nadella’s leadership.

Lastly, Nadella believed in investing in innovation to maintain competitiveness. He increased investment in research and development, resulting in ground-breaking products like HoloLens and Microsoft Surface. Nadella’s multifaceted approach propelled Microsoft’s transformation and sustained its position as a leading tech company.

“As growth-minded leaders, they start with a belief in human potential and development—both their own and other people’s. Instead of using the company as a vehicle for their greatness, they use it as an engine of growth—for themselves, the employees, and the company as a whole.” This excerpt from Carol Dweck’s seminal book, Mindset: How You Can Fulfil Your Potential, encapsulates what it means to be a growth-minded leader. 

True growth-minded leaders are indispensable in business because they commit to continuous learning and skill development. They recognize the value of effort and the importance of constantly improving their capabilities. These leaders create an environment where challenges are viewed not as obstacles but as opportunities for innovation and adaptation.

When leaders have a growth mindset, they take on challenges and learn from them – They also encourage their employees to have the same approach toward work. Cultivating a collective growth mindset within an organization yields numerous benefits. 

A Harvard study revealed that employees at fixed-mindset companies often felt that only a few “star” workers were truly valued. These employees were less committed, felt unsupported by the company, and were more afraid of failure, leading them to avoid innovative projects. They were also more likely to keep secrets, cut corners, and cheat to get ahead. 

Conversely, supervisors at growth-mindset companies had much more positive views of their employees. They rated them as more innovative, collaborative, and committed to learning and development, and they were more likely to see management potential in their employees.

Among motivation psychologists, Carol Dweck is “the mother of the growth mindset.” She is a specialist in human motivation. In the 1980s, Dweck and her colleagues began exploring students’ attitudes towards failure. Over time, they observed that some students quickly recovered from setbacks, while others were deeply affected by even minor failures. 

Through extensive research involving thousands of children, Dr. Dweck introduced the concepts of fixed and growth mindsets to explain people’s different beliefs about learning and intelligence. Her research proved that when students believe their intelligence can be developed, they recognize that effort enhances their abilities. As a result, they invest more time and effort, leading to more significant achievements.

Fixed Mindset

Individuals with a fixed mindset believe that their intelligence, personality, and abilities are static and unchangeable. They view these traits as innate and unalterable, which means they think that no matter what they do, these aspects of themselves will remain the same. This perspective can limit their potential because they may need to see the value in trying to improve or develop new skills. Instead of embracing growth, they resign to what they believe they were born with.

The fear of failure is a prominent characteristic of those with a fixed mindset. They are often preoccupied with proving their worth to themselves and others, seeing every challenge as a test of their inherent abilities. This can create a high level of anxiety and stress, as they are constantly concerned about how they will be judged based on their performance. As a result, they tend to avoid situations where there is a risk of failure — an attitude that can severely limit their opportunities for growth and development.

Because they believe their abilities are fixed, individuals with a fixed mindset see effort as futile. They think that effort is only necessary for those who lack talent, and therefore, investing time and energy into developing their skills seems pointless to them. This mindset discourages them from taking on new challenges or persevering through difficulties. Instead of seeing effort as a path to mastery, they view it as a sign of inadequacy.

People with a fixed mindset have a strong need for validation. They seek constant affirmation of their intelligence and capabilities, often looking for external approval to feel good about themselves. This need for validation can lead them to compare themselves to others frequently, striving to feel superior. This comparative nature can foster unhealthy competition and envy as their self-worth becomes tied to how they stack up against those around them.

Growth Mindset

Individuals with a growth mindset, on the other hand, believe that their essential qualities can be cultivated through effort and practice. Unlike those with a fixed mindset, they view intelligence and talent as starting points that can be developed over time. This belief in development empowers them to take proactive steps towards self-improvement and to see their abilities as malleable. They understand their potential is not predetermined but can be expanded through dedication and hard work.

Embracing challenges is a hallmark of those with a growth mindset. Instead of seeing challenges as threats to their self-esteem, they perceive them as opportunities to grow and learn. This perspective makes them more resilient and persistent when facing setbacks. They are willing to take risks and step out of their comfort zones, knowing that each challenge is a chance to enhance their skills and knowledge.

People with a growth mindset value effort as a critical component of growth and improvement. They recognize that achieving excellence requires deliberate practice and sustained effort. Rather than viewing effort as a sign of inadequacy, they see it as an essential path to mastery. They are more likely to seek feedback and use it constructively to improve their performance and reach their goals.

A passion for learning drives individuals with a growth mindset. They focus on the process of continual improvement rather than on immediate success. This focus on learning encourages them to explore new areas, acquire new skills, and persist through difficulties. They are motivated by the intrinsic rewards of learning and growth, rather than external validation or comparison to others.

Overall, a growth mindset fosters a proactive and resilient approach to life. Believing in development, embracing challenges, valuing effort, and focusing on learning all contribute to a mindset that encourages continuous personal and professional growth. By adopting a growth mindset, individuals can unlock their potential and achieve greater fulfillment and success.

How You Can Foster a Growth-Oriented Organization

Recent advancements in neuroscience have revealed that the brain is much more adaptable than previously understood. Studies on brain plasticity have demonstrated that neural connections can change based on experiences. With consistent practice, neural networks form new connections, reinforce existing ones, and develop insulation that enhances the speed of impulse transmission. This means that leaders can change their mindset from being fixed to being more growth-oriented. Here are a few tips to improve your management;

  1. Establish horizontal hierarchy

One of the toughest challenges as a leader is to be seen not just as a leader but as a partner. This involves letting go of the “my way or the highway” mentality. The best leaders aim to learn and grow alongside their teams, walking beside them on the path to success—not ahead or behind.

While your team inherently knows you are the leader, your interactions should make them feel that you genuinely understand them, communicate honestly, listen attentively, and grasp what motivates them.

  1. Don’t overreact to mistakes

You need to emphasize to your team that mistakes are part of the job. Rather than giving your employees a tongue-lashing each time a blunder occurs, encourage them to learn from their mistakes and try to perform better next time. 

Sometimes, you can share lessons from your journey, discuss mistakes you made yourself, and the solutions you arrived at to solve them. This creates a healthy work environment; your employees feel part of a team where calculated risks are accepted. 

3. Encourage a Culture of Learning

Integrate learning into all aspects of your workers’ journeys at your firm. Professional development should not be restricted to initial training and induction or annual refresher courses; it should be integrated into daily operations. Try multidimensional learning experiences, such as providing stretch challenges to your teams, encouraging them to swap roles on occasion, maintaining a library of flexible learning modules, providing access to coaching and external training, and providing peer-to-peer and senior leadership mentorship.

Incorporating these practices into your organization and embodying them personally can significantly enhance your company’s culture, bolster retention and talent attraction, and foster resilience in the face of challenges. As a leader, embracing a growth mindset not only improves your own capabilities but also propels your entire organization toward sustained success and adaptability. By doing so, you pave the way for a thriving, dynamic, and forward-thinking workplace.Angela Mutiso is the editorial consultant of the Accountant Journal. Email; [email protected]. Ochara Clive is a business writer and entrepreneur


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