“Whether you think you can, or you think you can't - you're right.”

― Henry Ford

The right mindsets oriented around team, growth, value, and core values can quickly transform a leadership team's dynamics and productivity faster than anything else in the leadership maturity toolkit. Mindset encompasses the beliefs, attitudes, and perspectives that shape how we look at and interact with the world and view challenges and opportunities.

Low-maturity leadership teams often have leaders with an individual versus team mindset, fixed versus growth mindset, low-value versus high-value mindset, and personal values versus core company values mindset. These teams are culturally on life support with low trust, collaboration, communication, problem-solving, decision-making, and a lack of accountability. Without trust, management teams can't mature because distrust is toxic and drives dysfunction, an unwillingness to share ideas, friction in moving ideas forward, defensive posturing, and so much more. Meetings are often political power struggles of endless status reports, lousy dialogue, and bad decisions with much self-promotion sprinkled in. The team is often rife with politics, self-preservation, and self-promotion.

On the contrary, leadership teams with a mature level of team, growth, high-value, and core value mindsets have a positive team dynamic and are an absolute joy to be around and work with. Their collaboration and communication bring them closer together and more coordinated and creative. Their problem solving and decision-making focus on the most valuable opportunities to mature the business model. There is a high level of execution and accountability. What ultimately fuels this positive team dynamic is a high level of trust among the team due to their shared mindsets and beliefs. This trust will permeate throughout the organization and have a profound effect. Compared with people at low-trust companies, people at high-trust companies report 74% less stress, 106% more energy at work, and 50% higher productivity. Resetting the mindset of a leadership team is one of the best returns on effort.

leadership mindsets

1. Individual vs. Team Mindset

A prevailing individual-oriented mindset, where individual leaders prioritize their needs and goals over the team, is the root cause of many dysfunctional teams. In these situations, the leadership team often fights over budget, priorities, airtime, power, and anything else they can. Inherently, with individual-oriented leadership teams, there needs to be more alignment of goals as individuals maximize their position and power rather than focusing on realizing the team's collective goals, creating distrust among the team and a toxic political culture.

As leadership teams put the team and business model above all, trust takes root. Trust is the cultural bedrock of high-performing teams since their problem solving, decisions, and actions align with the common goal of crafting a market-leading business model rather than maximizing the power and resources of their fiefdom. The rising tide of progress and performance raises all boats, and the management game evolves from a zero-sum game to a win-win non-zero-sum game.

The trust created through the attitudes and behaviors of a leadership team with a team mindset often turns the tide in the entire organization as the leaders of the leadership team imbue a team mindset one layer at a time throughout the rest of the organization. Over time, with trust established, a leadership team can replace a toxic culture rife with politics and selfishness with a culture of trust and collaboration.

2. Fixed vs. Growth Mindset

Many low-performing leadership teams have leaders with a fixed mindset with the predominant belief that intelligence and talent are innate and immutable. The overarching mantra is “I am who I am, and I’m not going to change.” These leadership teams are strategically stuck in a rut, working more in the business than on the business. They often lack vision and strategy, blaming poor performance on bad luck, the market, and others. With a fixed mindset, it is almost impossible to mature the core management competencies of strategy, collaborating and communicating, problem solving and decision-making, and leading and executing. If leaders think they can’t change and grow, how will the business and organization change and grow?

In stark contrast, high-performing leadership teams embrace a growth mindset, believing they and others can improve their skills and abilities through dedication and hard work. Their growth mindset ingrains a deep self-belief that the leaders and team can achieve greatness. When you genuinely believe you can achieve great things, your mind opens up to possibilities never imagined. These leadership teams are very positive, viewing challenges as opportunities to perform and grow as individuals, a team, and an organization. They are constantly forward-thinking and focused on the strategies and execution to move the business forward. High-performing teams are about growth within themselves, the leadership team, their teams, and the broader organization. It pays dividends to have a growth mindset, as McKinsey's analysis highlights leadership teams with growth mindsets are 2.4 times more likely to outperform their peers.

3. Low-Value vs. High-Value Mindset

Leadership teams with a low-value mindset focus on low-value topics. They have meetings overly focused on status reporting, things that happened, the fire of the day, or a haphazard journey on what they are working on. They are more content with seeming busy than figuring out the big stuff that will move the needle. They can often be operational versus strategic, spending their time and dialogue on operating versus working on the business.

On the contrary, high-value mindset leadership teams operate at a higher level focused on envisioning and realizing the big-picture initiatives that will mature the business model. They view everything through the lens of value creation and impact. They deeply understand value in its many forms (customer, financial, synergies, goals, etc.) and where the business needs to improve value. Their problem-solving focuses on creating more value for the customers, organization, employees, company, and shareholders. Their decisions weigh the relative value of potential initiatives versus existing ones against the constraints of resources and time. Their dialogue revolves around value creation rather than the details of day-to-day issues. A leadership team with a high-value mindset will create a ton of value for all stakeholders over time.

4. Personal Values vs. Core Values Mindset

Leadership teams with leaders who act on their personal values versus the company's core values have difficulty establishing a strong organizational culture. The inconsistency of personal values among a leadership team often leads to confusion throughout the organization on acceptable behaviors and norms for interactions and decisions. In these organizations, the culture of each function is different because team members reflect and behave consistently with their leader's personal values over the company's core values. Most team members don't even know the core company values, leading to massive inconsistency in interactions and decisions since they aren't rooted in the core company values. 

A company's core values should be the bedrock of the organization's culture. High-performing leadership teams with a core values mindset embrace the company's core values as the cornerstone of their thinking, beliefs, attitudes, and perspectives. They refer to the company's core values in their conversations, communications, arguments, and actions. They filter every big decision through the lens of the core values. They live the core values in their day-to-day work and work hard to ensure all team members also live them. As they bring this core values mindset to bear in their interactions, the organization's culture strengthens by reinforcing core values-based interactions and decisions.

The No-brainer ROI on Transforming Mindsets

Shifting mindsets within a leadership team also creates a relatively fast and substantial ROI. As leaders embrace a team over an individual mindset, team dynamics significantly improve, and politics diminish. As leaders shift from a fixed to a growth mindset, challenges become opportunities to grow, and the potential of the team to do great things grows. As they transform from a low-value operational to a high-value strategic mindset, the maturity of the business accelerates. And, as they truly embrace and begin living the company’s core values over their personal values, the cultural identity of the organization begins to take root, improving interactions and decisions.