To Become a Leader, Embrace Growth Mindset

career connection courage Sep 01, 2021

According to NeuroLeadership Institute, 96% of business leaders are concerned about productivity in the face of a pandemic. Meanwhile, the future of work is now upon us, requiring new skills and a new mindset to more effectively adapt to change. Organizations have two choices: Adapt or perish.

Building a thriving culture amid ongoing change requires embracing a growth mindset, where all employees are seen with potential, are encouraged to develop, and are rewarded for improvement. Rather than focusing on mistakes, a growth mindset helps people develop their talents. How can organizations start to embrace a growth mindset? They must focus on building practices that encourage learning from failure. 

Loud support from leadership

In a culture where growth mindset is embraced, failure is part of the journey toward transformation. Giving employees the freedom to explore, transform, and innovate will make the difference between success and failure in this uncertain world. Leaders must encourage failure constantly. Don’t assume people know it’s OK to fail. 

For example, if a software release fails, how does leadership respond? Do they express frustration over wasted time and resources? Do they criticize the team? Or do they ask, “What did we learn?” or “What is good about this?” Do they encourage teams to keep working to figure out the right solution?

When employees think they will be penalized if an idea fails, they will not propose out-of-the-box innovations. When creativity is fostered through a growth mindset, new approaches will emerge.

Feed forward

Feedback is a critical part of helping employees grow and transform. But feedback can be challenging in that it can cause a fight-or-flight response from employees. In a culture that embraces a growth mindset, feed forward is a tool to encourage positive growth.

Feed forward emphasizes what to do next and how to get better. The focus is on strategies and processes to leverage in the future, rather than past adverse events. Feed forward is less judgmental and encourages the employee to think about what they need to do in the future. The risk of an employee getting defensive is much lower since this approach is about growth, not judgement.

“At the simplest level, it leads to the unmistakable feeling that we’re moving forward in our professional and personal lives,” writes author Joe Hirsch. “Getting positive feedback about our performance may feel good, but it doesn’t break new ground … But when feedback gets us thinking about how to spread that talent to others, it has a multiplying effect.


Recognition is a critical tool to foster a growth mindset. Individuals should not just be rewarded for outstanding accomplishments, but also for being eager to learn, improve, and question the status quo. Learning from failures should be recognized. Ask, “What is the failure of the week and what did we learn?” Leaders should recognize those who are questioning norms and thinking outside the box.

According to Carol Dweck, author and growth mindset expert, “A growth mindset isn’t just about praising and rewarding effort. Outcomes do matter, and it’s thus critical to reward not just effort but learning and progress.” Employee recognition can have a significant impact on employee engagement, motivation, and resilience, and the behaviors rewarded feed into the culture leaders are trying to create.

In a growth-minded organization, recognition is used to call out those who take risks and try something new. Recognize the failures and the learnings that come from the failures. 

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