I have recently been pondering the very personal way that leaders have to continually re-invest in their own capabilities. On the one hand it is as if we have a deep well of self-belief that we must constantly tend, maintain and nurture; while on the other it is this source that we continually call upon to achieve our goals. Interestingly, it seems that calling on these reserves is, in fact, a way of replenishing them. It’s very similar to physical exercise – like training for a long distance run. We set a goal, train towards that goal, and then test our capabilities and training by competing in that run. But it is only this last stage – where the full breadth of the challenge is clear – that we are truly tested.

This was reinforced to me while reading Maria Popova’s great review of Stanford psychologist, Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

Dweck’s book explains that our abilities and our talents account for only part of our success (in life, business and so on), and that the personal way that we use those abilities and talents also has a massive impact. She divides this into two separate mindsets – the fixed or the growth mindset. Those who have the self belief that intelligence is static may plateau early in life and not achieve all that could be possible, while those with a growth mindset experience a very different set of circumstances. This is shown in the infographic below.

When I look at the growth mindset and consider the approach taken to challenges, obstacles, criticism together with the perception of effort hand the success of others, it strikes me that successful leaders must cultivate a growth mindset. And if Dweck’s research is anything to go by, that cultivation must take place from a very young age.

However, Dweck’s research also indicates that it’s never too late to rewire our cognitive habits. And that means you can work to acquire a growth mindset. Start by being curious. And take a read of Carol Dweck’s book. It may change more than your own life.

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