Growth Mindsets and Thought Leadership

Growth Mindsets and Thought Leadership
Photo by Volodymyr Hryshchenko on Unsplash

One of the reasons I stress that thought leadership goes beyond marketing is that it gives individuals and organizations a growth mindset. Those who can create change based on ideas often do so by advocating for those ideas effectively.

Ideas promoted via thought leadership typically foster individual thought leaders' professional development and industry influence. They also become the driving force of companies' financial growth and market impact. In both instances, ideas are the engine of future growth cycles as well.

In the work of psychologist Carol Dweck, a growth mindset is the belief that abilities, such as skills and character, increase with effort and learning. A fixed mindset holds that intelligence, talent, and skills are set or innate, no matter what.

The concept took off since the initial publication of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success in 2006. It has become part of the ambient dialtone of contemporary business culture. Implicit in naming it "growth" is the notion of positive development, maturity, continuous improvement, and many similar phrases rather than mere change.

The linkage between a growth mindset and thought leadership becomes apparent when breaking down a growth mindset into the components that characterize it. In each case, the difference between growth and fixity lies in how people or organizations react.

Growth-oriented people or organizations → Leaders
Fixed people or organizations → Stagnaters

Situation Fixed Response Growth Response
Challenges (opportunities to overcome threats, learn, and grow) Avoid or deny Embrace or openly seek
Obstacles (difficulties that arise in taking on a challenge) Treat as roadblocks or setbacks Use as new information and learning opportunities
Effort (time and work required by a challenge) Become discouraged and frustrated or give up completely Persist and engage mindfully in the process
Criticism (resistance and negativity) Feel invalidated or attacked; respond defensively Strengthen, clarify, and remain curious
Success of others (in similar challenges) Compete or retreat (zero-sum games) Push further and aspire to more

A leader's responses in all of those scenarios have a distinct throughline—thought leadership.

  • Leaders actively examine, identify, and communicate about potential challenges and those with the highest impact and priority.
  • Leaders look broadly for obstacles and put them into a clear and coherent context.
  • Leaders distance themselves from the effort of making change happen and demonstrate awareness of the process.
  • Leaders step out boldly and take risks in their thinking without needing a lot of validation or applause while at the same time using feedback to strengthen the case for change.
  • Leaders participate in a community of ideas and can tolerate competition while acknowledging the validity of others' ideas.

Formal thought leadership (written or spoken ideas that advance an agenda for change and growth) amplifies the reactions of a growth mindset at every level. Putting something in words strengthens and propels growth forward, even accelerating growth and increasing the learning and development inherent to a growth mindset. But the absence of thought leadership diminishes the benefits of a growth mindset, reducing the amount of growth that such a mindset makes possible.

Three Grace Notes

"In the fixed mindset, everything is about the outcome. If you fail—or if you’re not the best—it’s all been wasted. The growth mindset allows people to value what they’re doing regardless of the outcome . They’re tackling problems, charting new courses, working on important issues.." — Carol Dweck, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

"We look all around ourselves for instructions on how to live only to be confronted with the basic unknowability of the world. And so we turn to some new mode of control, such as minimalism, only to be infected with the suspicion that it, too, is unreal, a map to no territory." — Kyle Chayka, The Longing for Less: Living with Minimalism

"What if the biggest thing keeping us from doing what matters is the false assumption that it has to take tremendous effort? What if, instead, we considered the possibility that the reason something feels hard is that we haven’t yet found the easier way to do it?" — Greg McKeown, Effortless: Make It Easier to Do What Matters Most

Note: The links above are affiliate links. I'm using them in lieu of paid subscription tiers or digital tip jars. Seems like a much more graceful way to generate financial support while sharing more thinking and writing that can guide thought leadership.

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