Your Leadership Mindset Leadership Mindset
Leadership speakers, Bob Vanourek and Gregg Vanourek, use an image of a man with his head buried in a vast desert of sand to illustrate the "fixed mindset" that is so detrimental to leaders.

What is your leadership mindset? What are your self-conceptions and beliefs that drive your behavior as a leader?

In many cases, these are unknown because they operate beneath the level of our conscious awareness. Yet they are crucially important because they affect the way we approach people, situations, opportunities, and risks.

In short, our mindset is an essential factor in the quality of our leadership, yet we often operate in the dark about how and why.

Enter Carol Dweck and her path-breaking research on mindsets.

Dweck is a professor at Stanford University who studies motivation, personality, and development. According to Dweck, her “work bridges developmental psychology, social psychology, and personality psychology, and examines the self-conceptions (or mindsets) people use to structure the self and guide their behavior.” She distinguishes between two mindsets:

Fixed Mindset & Growth Mindset

Personal Values Exercise

Complete this exercise to identify your personal values. It will help you develop self-awareness, including clarity about what’s most important to you in life and work, and serve as a safe harbor for you to return to when things are tough.


Fixed Mindset

People with a fixed mindset tend to:

  • Want to look smart
  • Avoid challenges
  • Ignore useful negative feedback
  • Feel threatened by the success of others
  • Plateau early and achieve less than their full potential


Growth Mindset

By contrast, people with a growth mindset tend to:

  • Want to learn
  • Embrace challenges
  • Learn from criticism
  • Find lessons and inspiration in the success of others
  • Reach ever-higher levels of achievement

As a leader, whether you approach a situation with a desire to look smart by maintaining the status quo or a desire to learn by embracing challenges (even if it’s hard and people see that you don’t have all the answers) makes an enormous difference. All the more so in today’s world of rapid technological change, fast-moving trends, and disruptive innovations that upend old practices and business models.

Your leadership mindset is especially evident in your reaction to failure:

Do you dread the prospect of failure because you view it as an embarrassing reflection on your competencies?

Or are you open to the prospect of failure because you view it as a sign that you are stretching yourself in new areas? Do you summon the courage to trudge into the swamp of uncertainty, where you can learn and grow and thus improve your future performance (and confidence)?

Dweck points out that our mindset plays an important role in all aspects of our lives, affecting our levels of stress and success.

We are all born with certain predispositions, and our upbringing and schooling make powerful imprints on our psyches. But here’s the good news:

“Can mindsets be changed? Can they be taught? Yes.” -Carol Dweck

Leadership Derailers Assessment

Take this assessment to identify what’s inhibiting your leadership effectiveness. It will help you develop self-awareness and identify ways to improve your leadership.


Reflection Questions

  1. Do you approach your leadership with a fixed mindset or a growth mindset?
  2. Has this changed over time?
  3. What about your colleagues?
  4. How can you help them develop a growth mindset?


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Gregg Vanourek and Bob Vanourek are leadership practitioners, teachers, and award-winning authors (and son and father). They are co-authors of Triple Crown Leadership: Building Excellent, Ethical, and Enduring Organizations, a winner of the International Book Awards. Check out their Leadership Derailers Assessment or get their monthly newsletter. If you found value in this, please forward it to a friend. Every little bit helps! Leadership Mindset