Chris Lorence: The power of a growth mindset

Leading by Example

By Chris Lorence, ICBA

Some leaders are extroverted, gregarious collaborators who buzz around the office like hummingbirds, spreading positivity and encouragement while seeming to bring out the best in everyone. Others may be more demanding or meticulous, reserved or introverted. Whatever the behavior or personality, successful leaders typically have clarity in vision, flexibility in approach and, above all, mindsets that keep them open to possibilities and able to learn from their mistakes.

In 2006, Carol Dweck, a professor of psychology at Stanford University, explored the importance of mindset and documented her work in Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Her research found that people have one of two mindsets: fixed or growth. Those with a fixed mindset generally believe that one either has innate talent or they don’t; intelligence and the ability to learn new skills are limited to what one is born with. People with a growth mindset are open to expanding their knowledge and developing their skills, including experiencing failure. They believe our potential is limitless.

While behavior or personality contribute to a leader’s success, their mindset is often what makes the difference in how they lead their organizations. A growth mindset aligned with leadership opens the door for challenge, growth and development, while experiencing failure is accepted as part of the trajectory. Leaders who embrace a growth mindset surround themselves with people who challenge their thinking. They constantly look for ways to improve and step outside their comfort zone, and they expect the same from others.

Exceptional leaders understand that team members not only look for guidance, feedback and direction but also for indicators of what’s acceptable—the team “norms.” A leader with a growth mindset who is leading by example establishes a “norm” that everyone has potential. This leadership mindset also supports a healthy environment where development is elevated to a priority, and success is measured using multiple factors and not only by the bottom line. Keep in mind that not everyone on a team will have the determination or desire to grow beyond their existing skill sets. However, being given the opportunity to develop one’s potential is certainly more motivating and energizing than being stuck in a dead-end or unfulfilling role.

So, which team would you rather be on? A team where everyone is challenged to continuously expand and grow, and failure is simply part of the learning process, or a team where everyone is assessed on their current skill set and assigned a role?

Characteristics of a growth mindset

  • Setting up others to win
  • Encouraging purposeful work/contributions
  • Maximizing possibilities
  • Motivated for growth and evolution
  • Positive outlook
  • Self-accepting and self-aware

Chris Lorence ( is ICBA group executive vice president–member engagement and strategy.