There is no doubt that some people are born leaders. You know this person when you meet them – whether as a child or an adult. There’s some quality they possess that shines through, and it affects everyone around them. Leadership can be seen in their every movement, every gesture and in the ways they talk and work.
But it is equally true that leadership can be taught. Or more importantly, grown.
Over the years I have seen many individuals transition into leadership roles. Some of these have been born leaders, but the vast majority are those who have worked at leadership and have found a way to embrace leadership’s unique challenges.
It is this second group that I am most intrigued by – for while there are many who become good – even great – leaders, so many don’t quite make it. They are on the launchpad but fail to fly. And I wonder what stops them.
I was revisiting Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success and was reminded that sometimes leaders can self-saboutage in the most subtle ways. When we are facing visible and obvious challenges, most people rise to the challenge. These “external” challenges can be seen, described and addressed, while invisible, internal challenges require a fundamentally different approach.
At the end of each chapter, Dweck reviews the previous pages, teases out the key points and poses some challenging questions for her readers.
And one question stood out for me – an internal challenge.
“Is it possible that you’re the problem?”
For those unfamiliar with Dweck’s work, her TED Talk is required viewing.
Dweck’s focus is on the growth mindset. She argues that it is not our natural born talents alone that dictate our successes, but the way in which we use our abilities and talents. To explain the difference between approaches, she describes two types of mindset – the “fixed” mindset and the “growth” mindset. Those with a fixed mindset work to a pattern, whereas those with a growth mindset are expansive and open to challenge.
Perhaps, most tellingly, those with a fixed mindset are most likely to have never asked themselves a simple question:
Are you the problem?
So the next question is, “have you asked yourself?”
Nina Nets It Out: It is never too late to cultivate a growth mindset, but it is a challenge that comes with obstacles. Some of these obstacles are external – can be identified and overcome. While others are internal and require a deeply personal response. Successful leaders are constantly working on their growth mindset, and expect the same from their teams.