The Power of a Leadership Growth Mindset: Driving Innovation and Adaptability

Sarah Cuellar 5 minute read

A leadership growth mindset helps guide an organization to the future. Renowned psychologist Carol Dweck created the framework for the growth mindset to help companies grow. Many people don’t naturally have a growth mindset, but thankfully, it’s a skill you can develop.

This mindset shift is important for leaders who want to navigate massive technological shifts in the business world (AI, anybody?) and encourage their teams to solve problems creatively.

In this article, we’ll explore ideas about developing a leadership growth mindset from Guy Kawasaki, chief evangelist at Canva. Guy spoke with Growgetter CEO and co-founder Jenn Mancusi about his new book “Think Remarkable”  on “Marketing, Demystified,” and shared his insights on growth mindsets.

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What is a Leadership Growth Mindset? 

Many of us have grown up in environments that reinforced a fixed mindset – believing that our talents, abilities, and intelligence are largely set in stone. This mindset can lead us to shy away from challenges, resist feedback, and become overly concerned with appearing competent. 

In a fixed mindset, failure is seen as a personal shortcoming that reflects our inherent limitations.  

Leaders operating from this perspective may hesitate to take risks or experiment with new ideas. They refuse to try anything new unless they know they’ll be good at it.

This mindset stifles innovation and hinders an organization’s ability to adapt to changing market conditions. 

People with a leadership growth mindset believe they can develop capabilities through hard work and a willingness to learn. Guy says “Just because something is hard doesn’t mean that you’re not suited for it because very few things you immediately pick up when you first start. And so, the idea that if it’s not easy, I’m not good at it is a very, very mistaken perspective.” 

Leading with a growth mindset means people see mistakes as valuable lessons. This mindset shift can profoundly impact an individual’s leadership journey. 

Embracing the Discomfort of Growth 

Growth rarely comes without discomfort. Leaders with a fixed mindset often shy away from taking on new tasks or exploring unfamiliar territory because they fear potential failure or losing their reputation as experts.  

On the other hand, leaders with a growth mindset embrace the discomfort of learning and see it as a necessary step toward mastery. 

As Guy points out, “Beginning something new, you probably will suck at it. Suddenly, you make these transitions, you make these changes. And it’s going to take grit.”  

By cultivating a growth mindset, leaders can learn to view setbacks not as personal failures but as valuable learning experiences. This shift in perspective allows them to adapt quickly and try new approaches. 

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Fostering a Culture of Growth and Learning 

Guy suggests that one of the key indicators of a growth-oriented organization is the presence of diverse, inclusive, and equitable (DEI) programs. These initiatives demonstrate a commitment to personal and professional development and a willingness to seek out and value different perspectives. 

“Companies that support diversity are companies that support learning and growth,” Guy explains. “And you want to avoid companies with the genius mindset. The genius mindset is that we hire only A-plus players. They are geniuses; they have been great from day one. They don’t need to learn, and they don’t need to grow.”  

While the genius mindset might initially seem like a good idea, it can prevent team members from pushing themselves to learn new things. It also penalizes mistakes, which deters people from taking risks.  

Leaders can support the career development of their employees by cultivating an environment where team members want to take risks, ask questions, and learn from their mistakes.

Developing Resilience as a Leader 

It’s not just about gaining new skills or knowledge. It’s also about cultivating the resilience required to navigate leadership challenges.  

Guy acknowledges that failure is an inevitable part of the growth process. The key is learning from it.

“From your failure, learn what not to do next,” he advises. “So, in the future, you don’t fail at all, or at least you don’t fail in the same way. You could make the case that life is about learning to fail differently every time.” 

Reframing failure as an opportunity to learn something new is a key trait of a growth mindset.  

The more that leadership can create an atmosphere that views failure as a necessary part of the growth process, the easier it will be for their team to learn from their mistakes.  

This also keeps teams from staying stuck in their comfort zone. Jenn says that pushing yourself to try new things, even when it’s uncomfortable, has a real impact on your future career opportunities.

“Something that we’re seeing now is the shift in how companies are hiring,” Jenn explains. “You don’t necessarily need a degree in a certain thing to get a particular role anymore. Companies are a lot more open to hiring people from diverse experiences and backgrounds. It’s no longer the case that you have to start from the beginning if you want to make a pivot in your career.”

Putting the Growth Mindset into Practice 

Embracing a growth mindset is not passive. It requires intentional and consistent effort. For leaders who want to cultivate this transformative perspective, there are several practical steps they can take: 

  1. Seek out new challenges and learning opportunities. Comfort zones can be tempting, but leaders who push themselves to take on unfamiliar tasks or explore new areas of their industry are more likely to experience personal and professional growth. 
  2. Adopt a beginner’s mindset. Approaching tasks or projects with a beginner’s mindset can help leaders stay open to learning and avoid the pitfalls of overconfidence or complacency. 
  3. Embrace feedback and constructive criticism. Leaders with a growth mindset recognize that feedback, even if uncomfortable, is a valuable tool for improvement. They actively seek input from their teams, customers, and mentors to identify areas for development. 
  4. Foster a culture of organizational safety. Leaders need to encourage the open exchange of ideas and the pursuit of new challenges.
  5. Lead by example. Just like with any significant cultural shift, the growth mindset must be modeled and championed by those in leadership positions. By consistently using this mindset in their behaviors and decision-making, leaders can inspire their teams to follow suit. 

The Power of a Growth Mindset in Action 

The transformative impact of a growth mindset can be seen in the stories of remarkable leaders and organizations. One example is Andrew Zimmern, the renowned chef and television personality, who shared his insights with Kawasaki. 

Zimmern, who had a non-traditional path to success, emphasized the importance of making yourself “indispensable” by showing up every day and being willing to take on any task, no matter how small or undesirable.  

This dedicated effort and a commitment to learning allowed Zimmern to navigate setbacks and ultimately become a highly respected figure in the culinary world. 

Another inspiring example is that of Olivia Julianna, a young activist who has been making waves in the political sphere. Kawasaki cites Julianna as the kind of Gen Z role model who exemplifies the growth mindset, using her platform to drive change and make a meaningful difference. 

Redefining Leadership for the Future 

Remember, the journey to developing a growth mindset is ongoing and requires a willingness to step outside your comfort zone. But the rewards of this mindset shift are enormous.  

At age 44, Guy took up ice hockey. At age 60, he began surfing for the first time. His willingness to learn new things opened a world of possibilities.  

Whether your goals are personal or professional, embracing a growth mindset will help you make them a reality.  


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