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Through which mindset will you engage the COVID-19 pandemic?

How leaders engage and respond to our current events will be wide-reaching and long-remembered.  There will be successes realized, opportunities seized, missteps, mistakes and learning for us all and how we take that in, as leaders, will be one of the hallmarks of our capacity to grow inside these events and beyond. 

Carol Dweck’s work on Growth Mindset is resonant with me these days. In her seminal book, Mindset, she shares that: “For twenty years, my research has shown that the view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life.”  

Scientists have learned that our capacity and propensity for lifelong learning is greater than we ever imagined. Learning not only about ‘things’ and taking in information but learning about yourself, expanding your capacity – expanding your worldview and how much that worldview holds. The degree of complexity and ambiguity you can hold and continue to move forward, how you make meaning of the world and the sophistication of your consciousness.

Think about that in the context of what we are experiencing right now, this world of COVID-19 that has enveloped us. The greater one’s capacity to hold ambiguity and complexity amid the challenges we now face will directly impact how you lead your life and take up your identity in this new normal that is present.

Dweck's work defines mindsets in these two ways:

A growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. 

-        You believe that a person’s true potential is unknown, unknowable, and growable.

-        You are resilient in the face of adversity. 

-        You live in a world of ‘changing and ever-evolving qualities’ and developing yourself is a forever project. 

-        You seek experiences that stretch yourself and stick to it, especially when it gets difficult.

-        You seek the difficult as a matter of course.


A fixed mindset is based on the belief that your qualities are carved in stone which creates a need to prove yourself to others. 

-        You value intelligence and being right, over; growth, learning, effort and mistakes. 

-        You don’t like being wrong and avoid making-mistakes. 

-        You seek validation of your identity in your relationships.

-        You believe that you have little or nothing to learn.  

-        You are the ‘knower’ who takes on the role of the ‘teacher’ or even the ‘preacher’.  


Fascinatingly Dweck's research shows that there are fundamental differences in the brain waves of fixed and growth mindsets:

“People with a fixed mindset were only interested when the feedback reflected on their ability. Their brain waves showed them paying close attention when they were told whether their answers were right or wrong. But when they were presented with information that could help them learn, there was no sign of interest. Even when they’d gotten an answer wrong, they were not interested in learning what the right answer was. Only people with a growth mindset paid close attention to information that could stretch their knowledge. Only for them was learning a priority.”

Because we constantly move between a fixed or a growth mindset, the key is awareness of the mindset you are holding and then choosing a way of thinking about a particular thing. This makes awareness and presence critical capacities to cultivate to choose a growth mindset during these learning times. 

A growth mindset will help us learn through our missteps and mistakes because there will be some for us all. It is a growth mindset that will allow us to thrive during some of the most challenging times in our lives. This IS the PRIME opportunity to build our muscle to hold a greater degree of uncertainty and ambiguity.

There are powerful forces that are at play in our current environment and it is awareness to choose a growth mindset that will develop each of us in our own unique and compelling ways. In the realm of the new normal, a growth mindset that is not just theatre, but real commitment toward holding a growth space that will differentiate leaders. What we relearn, unlearn and create new will be the leading edge of development through and on the other side of this crisis. A growth mindset in this COVID-19 world is even more necessary for all of us to lead in new ways.


  • How can choosing a growth mindset help you? What does a growth mindset open up?

  • How can you cultivate greater awareness and presence to choose your mindset?

  • What do you see needing to unlearn, relearn or create through our current environment?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts in comments, join the conversation.

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