Fulfillment and Leadership

In the book Mind-Set: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck it explores the debate on whether or not great leaders are born or are made.  Carol believes that people have two mind sets and those determine how they will succeed or fail.  Those mind sets are: People with a fixed mind-set believe that intelligence is static. Your behavior provides a sample of your true underlying intelligence. As a result, you’ll avoid challenges. You’ll be threatened by negative feedback. You’ll exert less effort. Then are those with a growth mind-set. These people believe intelligence can be developed, like muscles. If you’re of this mind, you’ll test yourself more, despite the risk. You’re more inclined to accept criticism–ultimately, it makes you better. You perceive hard work as the path to mastery, not as a sign of insufficient genius.

If your definition of living a happier life includes fulfillment, and a big part of that fulfillment is learning and growing, you may find a new book by Carol Dweck, Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, very interesting.

In her latest book, Mind-set: The New Psychology of Success, Professor Dweck discusses the issue of leadership, but not in the traditional sense – she doesn’t debate whether leaders are born or made. Dweck looks at precisely how you think about issues like this one to determine what makes you a better or a worse leader.

Dweck has found that individuals succeed or fail based on how they think about intelligence. She says people have one of two mind-sets on the matter:

  • People with a fixed mind-set believe that intelligence is static. Your behavior provides a sample of your true underlying intelligence. As a result, you’ll avoid challenges. You’ll be threatened by negative feedback. You’ll exert less effort.
  • Then are those with a growth mind-set. These people believe intelligence can be developed, like muscles. If you’re of this mind, you’ll test yourself more, despite the risk. You’re more inclined to accept criticism–ultimately, it makes you better. You perceive hard work as the path to mastery, not as a sign of insufficient genius.

According to the FastCompany.com article Leadership is a Muscle:

“Tiger Woods is an athlete with a growth mind-set, someone who obsesses about his game and makes incremental improvements. Manny Ramirezof the Boston Red Sox appears to have a fixed mind-set, relying on his enormous natural gifts to succeed (but not as keen on things like attending spring training). All of us blend the mind-sets in our heads. We might say, “I can’t draw.” But few of us would say, “I was born without the ability to ride a bike.””

If leadership is like intelligence – that is, if it can be developed – the argument as to whether leaders are born or developed has been answered.

Would you rather have leaders with fixed mind-sets or those with growth mind-sets? I’d prefer the latter. Why?

The obvious reason is that a growth mind-set leader is probably more likely to roll with the punches. Such a leader won’t possess the belief that he/she already has all of the answers. Instead of defending his/her positions, he/she will be likely to look to others for collaboration and input – accepting both the positive and negative feedback received.

Tudor Rickards is A Professor of Creativity and Innovation at The Manchester Business School in the United Kingdom and is co-author of Dilemmas of Leadership with Murray Clark.

Rickards talks about creative leadership and its impact on others. He raises more than a possibility that our leaders are not simply created, they’re co-created by their actions and those of their followers.

He uses the term: “Leaders We Deserve”, which I believe is spot-on. When we don’t like the direction we’re being led, we often take the easy way out by pointing the finger above to our leaders (or at upper management) when things are bad, when, in fact, we were the ones to empower these leaders in the first place.

We should instead consider the options we have to catalyze and implement change for the better. Additionally, we should take steps here and now to shape the behavior of our leaders and ourselves. I believe we’ll have much more impact as a group of minds if our leaders are constantly evolving – like those with a growth mind-set.

As you seek fulfillment in your life – as you learn and grow and amplify the power of your intelligence – you may very well be further evolving into a creative leader.

Thanks to John at The Leadership Epidemic for including this post in his Does Most Leadership Suck? Challenge list, and to Mabel and Harry at MabelandHarry for making this a part of their Carnival of Leadership Development.

3 Comments on “Fulfillment and Leadership”

  • As a Learning and Development guy by profession, I love to hear stuff like this. I agree that one of the greatest indicators of success is one’s desire to develop and improve themselves.

    Great post!

  • Interesting recommendation and ties in nicely with DBA research I’m doing. Thanks for the tip. Keep ‘em coming if you spot more like this on leading. Just had long discussion with a colleague today Prof in TQM area who was bemoaning the fact that business managers he meets internationally are disenchanted with operational analytical tools and techniques and are moving strongly towards managerial thinking & thought development techniques…we never saw that coming now did we ! lol

  • If leaders are, in fact, made – that is created – and developed very much like thought and intelligence, the process is by its very nature a co-creative one.

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