What makes a successful leader? Technical skill and diligence are important assets to have, but at its core leadership is driven by mindset. Whether you’re actively leading a team or working with an executive coach to develop your leadership skills, your mindset dictates your success.
If you believe that you will never change a quality about yourself, your behavior will reinforce that quality. Conversely, a growth mindset helps you make changes and develop habits for success.
The good news is mindset is malleable. By understanding and developing a leadership mindset, you can take your leadership to the next level.
What Is a Leadership Mindset?
In her book Mindset, Stanford researcher Carol Dweck identifies two kinds of mindsets: growth and fixed. Those with a growth mindset believe they can develop new skills and tend to put effort into learning. On an organizational level, company cultures that encourage a growth mindset empower employees, prioritize employee engagement, and support innovation.
A successful leadership mindset combines a growth mindset with people skills. This combination forms a mindset where leaders stay open to new perspectives, connect deeply with their team, and learn from failures and successes.
Practicing a Leadership Mindset
Implementing a leadership mindset requires intentional focus. Start by reflecting on your goals and practicing gratitude daily. When you experience negative thoughts, reframe your mindset. For example, “I can’t do this” becomes “I may not know how to do this yet, but I can learn.”
Who Needs a Leadership Mindset?
Everyone can benefit from a leadership mindset—even those who aren’t in traditional or official leadership positions—as I explain in my book Leader Is Not a Title. A leadership mindset encourages responsibility, accountability, and continuous learning—universally beneficial qualities that are especially helpful in the workplace.
A successful organization fosters leadership mindsets among both leaders and employees. When you accept that mistakes happen, you find ways to learn and grow from them. When you hone your communication skills, you foster understanding and clear expectations. When you empathize with others, you contribute to a supportive work environment.
How New and Experienced Leaders Benefit from the Right Mindset
New and experienced leaders alike are well served by having leadership mindsets. When you first step into a leadership role, the right mindset will help you adjust to new responsibilities and learn new skills. Through this adjustment period, you learn how to foster trust and respect among your team. By approaching leadership with a motivated, focused mindset, you are better equipped to lead your team.
Furthermore, the continuous growth within a leadership mindset benefits everyone. Becoming a senior manager or CEO is not a pass to stop learning and does not give you permission to become complacent; you should be even more dedicated to improving your skills in setting goals, navigating challenges, and supporting and engaging your team.
The right mindset also aids leaders in changing business approaches. Business practices are becoming less top-down and more teamwork-based. Instead of sticking to what you’ve always done, a leadership mindset helps identify problems, evaluate situations, and make adjustments.
Elements of a Leadership Mindset
Having a leadership mindset requires leaders to understand their own values, strengths, and weaknesses. A leadership mindset includes several necessary skills:
Critical thinking skills
Ability to learn from failure
Strong communication skills
Ability to build trust and respect
Engagement with your team
These skills help leaders reflect on what went right and wrong after both successes and failures. They also allow leaders to bring honesty and care to interactions with their team. Notably successful leaders have emotional intelligence as well.
Emotional Intelligence and Leadership
According to psychologist Daniel Goleman, emotional intelligence has four domains: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. Mastering the competencies within these domains leads to successful leadership.
Emotional intelligence and leadership mindsets go hand in hand. A leader with high emotional intelligence creates connected, motivated teams. Emotionally intelligent leaders care about their employees and know their strengths and weaknesses. Emotional intelligence and the right mindset help leaders practice discipline in strategic thinking and action.
How to Develop Your Leadership Mindset
There are several ways to develop your leadership mindset. Begin by looking inward with self-reflection and analysis, and then seek external resources.
Understand your leadership style. Knowing how you tend to lead reveals areas to improve, and you can identify ways to improve communication with your team. From there, take initiative to practice desired skills, like active listening or discipline. Start with small goals, like journaling daily or waking up early.
Finally, learn from others. Role models, teammates, coaches, and books are all great resources. In particular, two great books are Triggers by Marshall Goldsmith and Conversational Intelligence by Judith Glaser. Triggers offers practical exercises to help change your behavior while Conversational Intelligence explores ways to have more meaningful conversations.
Develop Your Mindset with Coaches
When you think of coaches, you probably picture sports. Every athlete or team needs a coach—often more than one. There’s the head coach, but there are also mindset coaches, nutrition coaches, strength coaches, and position coaches, like a batting coach in baseball or a defensive coordinator coach in football.
Does asking for help from a coach mean the players lack skills? Not at all! Rather, coaches are the best source to help athletes reach their full potential.
This system of coaching can—and should—be applied in other areas of life. In business, executive coaches step in to assist CEOs and managers just like a head coach guides a sports team.
Executive coaches shape your leadership development efforts by creating a structured program, helping you set goals, providing objective feedback, and analyzing ways you can improve your leadership effectiveness.
Are you ready to strengthen your leadership mindset? Reach out to learn more about leadership coaching.
Questions to Consider
What thought patterns do you notice yourself following?
What kind of conversations do you have with your team?
Do you have a growth mindset or a fixed mindset?