By JESSICA THIEFELS
A great leader is always evolving, taking cues from employees, themselves, and the world around them to improve and grow. This active evolution in leadership is even more important now than ever before, which Drea Zigarmi explains in a recent article on Chief Learning Officer:
“Today’s leader cannot afford to operate with a default style of leadership. They need to be more intentional about how they lead, moment by moment, remaining flexible and in tune with the various phases the people they are attempting to influence are going through in pursuit of their key objectives.”
Mindset is an important area of growth for leaders because it affects how they interact with others, how they define success, and how they manage setbacks. This year, take a look at your mindset and consider how you can shift to become a better leader.
From fixed mindset to growth mindset
Leaders with a fixed mindset believe that we are all born with the talents we have, but worse, that those talents should come naturally ‒ they don’t need to be improved or worked on.
This means, “failure is deemed as an event which calls into question their true intelligence, resulting in these individuals experiencing significant struggles with setbacks or mistakes,” suggests Alaina Love, chief operating officer (COO) of Purpose Linked Consulting.
As a leader, you need to be the example; if a simple setback sends you reeling into self-doubt, you’ll struggle to empower your team to take chances and make mistakes themselves. Yet taking chances is at the heart of any successful business.
“What I didn’t realise then but live by now, is that risk-taking is essential in leadership. Taking risks involves moving forward despite fear and/or uncertainty. Until you experience discomfort, real growth and development do not exist,” says Dr. Sharon H. Porter, chief executive (CEO) of Perfect Time SHP LLC.
That’s why having a growth mindset as a leader sets you, your team, and the business up for success.
Make the change: Start an initiative or policy within your team or the organisation ‒ call it something like ‘Figure Out the Failures’, where everyone makes a point to dive into the ‘failure’ or mistake and find out why it happened and how to improve in the future. This goes for you as much as it does for your employees.
From my goals to our goals
There’s a certain amount of pride you have as a leader. It may even be what has gotten you to where you are today: a top-performing, successful manager or executive in a great company.
Yet, when you keep everything on your plate so you can prove that you can handle it all, something else happens: you’re also the last one standing when something fails. Not to mention, your team is anything but engaged because they don’t feel connected to the projects they’re working on.
As you switch from a ‘my goals to our goals’ mindset, there’s one framework to consider: servant leadership.
Reflections from a Reluctant Servant Leader explains that traditional leaders often crave this command and control ‒ ‘barking, yelling, pointing fingers and telling everyone around you what to do’. Because of this, when things go wrong, no one is there to take the fall with you; you’ve made all the decisions, without input from anyone else.
As a servant leader who shares in the same goals with his or her employees, you share in both the wins and the losses together. Reflections from a Reluctant Servant Leader continues, “When you’re a servant leader, the people around you are happy to share in the blame. They feel some responsibility for any failure to succeed or perform, and they’re only too happy to speak with optimism about their plans to recover, to create a new or better solution.”
Make the change: Set a meeting at the start of every month or quarter to run through team goals as a group. This is an easy way to start shifting your mindset from mine to ours. Better yet, encourage the team to share feedback on goals or add more to the list ‒ prioritising together truly makes the goals feel like theirs.
From sage on the stage to guide on the side
These terms are often used in the education world about how to best lead a classroom of students, but they can both be applied to leadership in the business world as well. The idea is simple: rather than teaching to your students (employees), use your knowledge and experience to guide them to the answers.
In business, this allows you to develop better employees; ones who are self-sufficient and empowered to do their job well. Rather than barking orders, you let the employee figure it out, using their own strengths to be successful. The key to this is making yourself available to be the guide; when employees need your assistance, you’re there to help them along.
Make the change: There are a number of ways to become a guide and Partners in Leadership recommend a few ideas that you can use to cultivate this attitude company-wide: Provide mentorship wherever possible, incorporate feedback, and encourage peer coaching.
From decision-maker to discussion-facilitator
How often do you have discussions about on-going projects with your employees? Rather than simply asking for a status update or handing out an assignment, do you have a discussion about the progress or their thoughts on the assignment at hand?
The Center for Management and Organization Effectiveness says that asking for status updates rather than having a discussion is often where leaders go wrong.
“Another mistake that many business leaders make is not allowing for open, timely dialogue that travels up and down the organisation. Communication often comes only from the top down, leaving lower-level employees powerless to influence their work environment. Establishing better communication practices can help your employees feel empowered to grow and contribute to the big picture.”
Similar to the idea of being a guide rather than a ‘sage’, going from decision-maker to discussion-facilitator puts your employees in the driver’s seat. Empowered employees are more engaged, and therefore more effective, making this a critical mindset shift.
Make the change: When holding your monthly or quarterly goal meetings, make time for brainstorming and discussion. This is the perfect time to open communication, hear feedback, ideas, and wins and losses, all of which will affect how goals are handled in the coming weeks or months.
Make a mindset shift this year
If you’re dedicated to being a leader, you must also be dedicated to shifting your mindset towards one that will make everyone most effective and empowered. Consider where your tactics could be shifted to drive growth within your team, yourself, and the business as a whole.