I firmly believe the day you feel you don’t have anything to learn in your career then it is time to move on. Even when a person is at the pinnacle of his/her organization there is much to learn. No one person is good at everything, not even great leaders. Great leaders identify their strengths and leverage them to accomplish wonderful things. They understand the “power of yet,” and embrace that they might not have a certain skill or strength yet, but are not afraid to invest in their own growth to learn new and innovative ways to reach their goals.
Dr. Carol Dweck coined the phrase growth mindset based on research around how children viewed failure and how they attacked difficult tasks. She and her colleagues observed thousands of students and determined that there were two types of mindsets. Some children had a fixed mindset and others had what she coined a “growth mindset.” Overwhelmingly, students who had a growth mindset persevered through difficult tasks and demonstrated higher academic outcomes.
The Fixed Mindset
A person with a fixed mindset believes that intelligence is static and cannot be improved. They:
Focus on the desire to appear smart
Shy away from challenges
Give up easily when faced with a challenge
Do not see the connection between effort and achievement
Ignore constructive feedback that could improve their practices
Are resentful of and threatened by the success of others
May not achieve all that they could because of their mentality
A fixed mindset can be the nail in the coffin for a school superintendent. Education, and thereby the superintendency, have become more complicated than ever. A leader who feels that he/she cannot grow in his/her abilities is doomed to mediocrity or even failure. As the leader of an educational institution, people will expect you to lead by example. If you have a fixed mindset it will convey to your staff and students that they shouldn’t move outside of their comfort zones and learn new and sometimes challenging things. This is completely counter to the mission of any educational organization.
The Growth Mindset
Dr. Dweck defines a growth mindset as the belief that intelligence can be developed. People with a growth mindset focus on learning new things and improving on aspects of their lives that they feel are deficient. Due to the focus on growth, these people:
Embrace a challenge
Persevere through setbacks
Understand that effort is necessary to reach mastery
Learn and appreciate constructive feedback
Seek to learn from the successes of others
People with a growth mindset will achieve higher outcomes because of their focus on their growth and, often, the growth of others, within their organization. A leader who embraces a growth mindset will not make excuses for not knowing the answer but will make sure he/she rallies the resources necessary to figure out the problem.
If you are ever torn between a fixed or growth mindset, choose growth. When I work with leaders, I call this the “so what, now what” moment. Here’s an example: each year we survey our families, students, and staff. As we review the responses the “so what” is what people shared and the “now what” is how we will respond. For example, if parents respond that they don’t feel like there are enough family events at school (the so what) then we need to make plans to increase those events (the now what.) If we look at the organization's deficits (so what?) and do nothing then we are not embracing the growth mindset. The main difference between the growth mindset and the fixed mindset model is that you acknowledge areas that may not be your most obvious strength and you commit to growing those.
Recently I was embracing my growth mindset. I have been attending national training for principal supervisors through the RELAY Graduate School of Education. It is a yearlong training in which I have been immersed in top-notch professional learning. During this most recent two day session, we were working on growing our own content knowledge. I attended a K-2 literacy break out session and a 6-8 math break out session. As a leader, I have supervised in these areas but have never actually taught them myself. One could say that was a weakness, instead of worrying about what I DON’T know about it I have decided to become a student of it throughout my career. By growing my own knowledge in these areas I can directly support the growth of my leaders, our teachers, and our students. When you are a leader you must focus on your growth.
What areas do you want to focus on growing in your leadership journey? I’d love to hear from you, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org,
For more on embracing your growth and other leadership tips download your free copy of my book HERE.
In love and friendship,