The foundational theories of growth in leadership and organizational culture have undergone significant change in the modern era.
During the industrial revolution, leadership was more of the “command and control” variety and “laborers” (a popular term at the time) were mostly performing mindless and repetitive tasks as manual laborers and assembly line workers. Due to the nature of the work and the mindset of the leaders, laborers had no expectation or opportunity for growth other than to increase their capacity to produce more product.
Entering the modern era, we evolved from the Industrial revolution with its emphasis on manual labor skills and efficiency to the information technology era which emphasizes mental capabilities and capacity.
Leaders are finding that a command-and-control style of leadership is no longer effective. In fact, this leadership style has become counterproductive for our organizations.
Today’s best leaders now embrace a style of leadership that is conducive to, and supports, team building, individual creativity, and inclusiveness. Fundamental to this new leadership style is a different way of thinking known as a growth mindset.
Leaders who embrace a growth mindset believe that everyone on their team has the capacity for growth. This critical mindset is contrasted to a fixed mindset that believes that basic qualities, like intelligence and talent, are fixed traits and unchangeable. Based on these contrasting mindsets, the resulting practice culture, which the leader creates, will reflect these underlying beliefs.
Practice cultures based on a prevailing fixed mindset tends to become stagnant and decline over time, whereas growth oriented cultures are able to scale individual and team capabilities and capacity to meet changing demands and future complexity.
We have identified three basic beliefs that are essential to the development of a growth mindset.
1. Growth is an organizational imperative:
This goes beyond the belief that growth is possible. It recognizes that growth, both individual and team growth, is fundamental to our practice survival. Imagine, if you will, that you practiced dentistry with a fixed skill set; that from the day you graduated dental school your skills were fixed and never improved. As years passed, your ability to meet modern standards would continue to diminish until you and your practice eventually became irrelevant, marginalized, and failed.
Unfortunately, and all too often, this scenario plays out in many practices. The onset and progression of decline is often slow and imperceivable until a developmental (growth) gap becomes so broad that recovery is extremely difficult.
2. Failure leads to success:
Remember how you learned to ride a bike? Initially you may have fallen and experienced some minor bumps and bruises until finally, one day, everything came together and off you went.
A similar experience holds true for personal and professional growth. Failure will often precede success, and leaders must learn to accept failure as a necessary steppingstone for ultimate success and mastery.
It is our job to support our team through these developmental experiences and make each failure a learning opportunity. We do this by creating a psychologically safe environment that prioritizes growth despite the failures inherent in the growth learning process. We do this also because we recognize that scaling our organizational capability and capacity to meet future demands is essential to our survival.
3. Perfection is a myth:
Okay, at the risk of being considered a heretic, I have spoken the unspeakable. Yes, perfection is a myth and the belief in perfectionism can even be destructive. Think about this…….If perfection is attainable, growth comes to a screeching halt because there is no growth beyond perfection.
The reason that perfection is a myth is that what may be considered perfect today will likely be viewed as imperfect in the future.
I can use my experience as an endodontist as an example. When I graduated my residency, the ideal root canal had a large access and canals that were enlarged through aggressive cleaning and shaping procedures. Today, the ideal root canal has a small access and preserves critical tooth structure utilizing modern cleaning technology and shaping techniques. What was perfect then is considered imperfect now.
Furthermore, we create unnecessary stress and frustration for ourselves and our team by doggedly adhering to a perfectionist mindset. It would be far better for everyone involved if we could alter our mindset to one that promoted constant improvement rather than perfection, which is unattainable. Seeking constant improvement is more aligned with a growth mindset, and more easily accepted by our staff.
Past research indicates that our expectations of our team will likely be reflected in the results they achieve. Believing in our team’s capacity for growth and expecting continuing improvement in their performance and skills will pay dividends for our practices if we create a work environment that is conducive to growth.
At Line of Sight Coaching, we have created a quick ten-question self-assessment Leadership Quiz. Take this opportunity to gauge your leadership effectiveness and get an answer to the question… “Have you ever wondered about your ability to lead?” Take our Free Leadership Quiz.
Dr. Joel Small and Dr. Edwin McDonald, the founders of Line of Sight Coaching, are dental practitioners, authors, speakers and Business Leadership Coaches who work with healthcare professionals to help them build more successful practices so they can live the balanced life they seek.