Leaning In: Leadership, Growth Mindset and Covid-19

By Dr’s Carlos Davidovich, MD., & Tatijana Busic, Ph.D.

What is a Growth Mindset?

The current global crisis brings an onslaught of challenge and disruption. Resilience – the ability to manage, recover and thrive, through disruption and loss, is paramount. We believe that strengthening resilience, requires leaning-in to a growth mindset.

Dr. Carol Dweck from Stanford University, identified that people who lean toward a fixed mindset, view talent and skill as either present or absent. In other words, you either have what it takes or you don’t. While people who lean toward a growth mindset believe that talent and skill evolve and can be developed. Challenges are seen as opportunities. This influential work has become an essential framework for building human talent, engagement and the ability to thrive through adversity.

 

Why a Growth Mindset is Crucial During Crisis

Covid-19 has influenced every facet of our world. Many people have leaned toward a survival mindset, shifting from calm and rational to panicked and reactionary. This survival response is very normal but has negative impacts on people and systems, especially during crisis.

State of mind is a set of attitudes. It reflects the mental habits people form vis-à-vis past experience. When we talk about habits, we’re really talking about beliefs. Beliefs are learned and can therefore be edited or unlearned. “It is not who you are that is holding you back but who you think you are not”.

Here are some common fixed mindset thoughts humans experience during crisis:

  • “Someone else can do better”·
  • “Maybe I don’t have the necessary skills.”·
  • “What if I mess up, cause harm and lose credibility?”

Here are some common growth mindset thoughts humans experience during crisis:

  • “I can always learn and figure this out”·
  • “This can be a great opportunity to develop”·
  • “A year ago, I would not have done this well, I am learning”

“Cultivating a growth mindset is the engine for healthy culture,

well-being, transformation and innovation. And it begins with leaders. ”

Implications of Fixed vs. Growth

When we think and behave from a fixed mindset, we tend to perceive uncertainty as threatening. If uncertainty equals threat and we believe that talent and skill are fixed, why bother? See the pattern here? A fixed mindset dampens curiosity and other executive functions of the brain that are needed for strategic thinking and high impact action.

On the other hand, a growth mindset views uncertainty as a challenge. An opportunity to learn, grow and evolve. For organizations to thrive from the traumatic impacts of Covid-19, the choice is clear. Cultivating a growth mindset is the engine for healthy culture, well-being, transformation and innovation. And it begins with leaders.

Concluding Thoughts

When leaders demonstrate a growth mindset, they model the what, why, and how of leaning into the uncertainty of Covid-19. They foster the agility, engagement, and resourceful thinking and action that we all need right now.

 

With Gratitude,
Tatijana & Carlos

RESOURCES

Check out Carol Dweck’s book: Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (2016) and her Ted Talk

REFERENCES 

Dweck, C. (2015). Carol Dweck revisits the growth mindset. Education Week, 35(5), 20-24.

Dweck, C. S. (2016). Mindset: The new psychology of success. Penguin Random House, New York.

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