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Mindsets for All Seasons and All Leaders

Leadership research conducted by GP Strategies uncovered the need for four particular mindsets to lead effectively: growth, inclusive, agile, and enterprise. Inside a steady-state or business-as-usual environment, these mindsets can ground leaders, helping them support their teams, each other, and their organization. But what about times of uncertainty or crisis? Do these mindsets go out the window in favor of something else? Quite the opposite. During times of uncertainty, these four kinds of mindsets can help refocus leaders on the attitudes they need to succeed.

Growth – A growth mindset reminds us to learn from our setbacks and challenges and use them to improve. When situations are challenging—customer demands are shifting, markets are in flux, employee roles are being changed or eliminated—it can be hard to remain positive. A growth mindset is an acknowledgment of current realities combined with a commitment to how you’ll address those challenges differently. How are your customers’ needs shifting and how can you be better prepared to meet them going forward? With organizational changes, how can you alter what you’re doing to support the organization? Is there something new you can learn or take on to contribute in new or different ways?

Look around at the ways businesses and communities are flexing to change what they deliver to their customers and students. Adaptations like curbside pickup for food, distance learning for homebound children, or Zoom meetings to connect family members are real-time examples of the growth mindset—creative ways to accomplish goals through different means. When we move forward in spite of obstacles and look for new ways to accomplish tasks, we make room for growth and skill development. From there, it’s possible to move forward with confidence and instill that confidence in our teams.

Inclusive – Times of uncertainty and change are also times where you need your team to step up and bring their ideas and support to what you’re trying to accomplish. When a leader has an inclusive mindset, they recognize the need to make sure they are seeking the input of all members of their team and not simply falling back on the thoughts and opinions of a trusted few. They can do this by actively reaching out to get feedback and ideas from those with diverse perspectives. In addition, creating an environment of psychological safety is particularly important during times of uncertainty because you want your team to feel comfortable sharing all ideas. If a team member feels pressure to “get on board” even if they have doubts or other ideas, you run the risk of repressing information that might be useful. Diverse opinions can reveal new ways of adapting work from home scenarios to be more sensitive to working parents or better address the time zone differences of global team members. An inclusive leader helps all team members feel as though their unique differences and opinions are relevant at all times—including times of change.

Agile – Agility might be the most important mindset during times of change and uncertainty. When confronted with change, some people (including leaders) are so overwhelmed that they freeze, unable to act in a way that moves them, or their team, forward. You yourself might want to hold off on making decisions until the best decision comes into focus or you gather more information, but playing the waiting game and choosing inaction may not be the best choice. An agile leader is increasingly comfortable with ambiguous situations, is able to make decisions with incomplete information, and helps their team take actions that propel them forward. Agility can be seen in the adaptations leaders and their people have made to leverage technology in new ways to keep their teams connected and contributing. An agile leader cultivates personal resiliency and encourages their team to do the same. The result of agility can be new and innovative ideas, opportunities to get things done differently, or approaches that might not otherwise have surfaced if a leader didn’t to pivot from their current reality.

Enterprise – Change can cause leaders, and their teams, to lose focus. You may be distracted by world events, volatile market conditions, or upheavals in your personal life such as working from home while juggling family responsibilities. Under these circumstances, it’s easy to become disengaged and feel unsure where to spend your time and energy. One way to refocus is to tap into your enterprise mindset and think about the contributions you need to make to your team members, organization, and customers. Reminding yourself, and your team, of the shared purpose you have to make contributions that benefit your clients and customers can keep you focused on the task at hand. Likewise, research shows that the best enterprise leaders link the work their team is doing to organizational goals. When you remind yourself of what or who you’re working for and re-center around the efforts you can make to contribute, you can increase your (and your team’s) engagement.

During times of change and uncertainty, there’s a lot we can’t control. But with some conscious effort, you can align your thinking and bring forth an attitude of growth, inclusivity, agility, and enterprise thinking to help you move forward. And when you align your thoughts, your actions will follow, further enabling you to lead yourself, and others, through change.

About the Authors

Leah Clark
Director, Strategy and Planning, GP Strategies Corporation. Senior Director for Strategy and Planning, Leah focuses on bringing new products to market and enhancing the participant experience. She works with clients to understand their leadership and engagement challenges and consults with them on the creative solutions. Prior to joining GP Strategies, Leah had her own practice in executive coaching and consulting. She is a certified professional coach through an ICF accredited organization and is a Myers-Briggs practitioner. Leah has over seventeen years of experience in marketing, strategy, and product development in a corporate environment. She has also served as an adjunct faculty member in the fields of psychology and organizational psychology. She has a Master’s of Arts degree in Organizational Psychology from Columbia University and a Bachelor of Arts in English and Sociology from Boston College where she graduated summa cum laude.

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