Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset For Leaders & Organizations

Mike Pelfini — 27 March 2023

ForeMeta executive coaching offers CEOs, leaders of businesses, and organizational leadership 1:1 & group coaching for growth mindset and other skillset.

“The growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts.”   Carol Dweck, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

This article will look at the growth mindset and its opposite, the “fixed mindset,” for insights into how individuals and organizations can develop their capacities for personal and professional development.

The Growth Mindset Focuses on Becoming; the Fixed Mindset Focuses on Being

In the growth mindset, personal qualities are changeable and can be improved.  The focus is on the process of “becoming,” not just a present state of “being”, as in the opposing fixed mindset. In the fixed mindset, by contrast, a person either has the “right stuff” or they don’t.  The two outlooks can lead to very different reactions to challenges.

A growth mindset views challenges as opportunities to develop new skills and knowledge, to confront an obstacle and make progress.  The process can be as important as the outcome, since the goal isn’t instant mastery but improvement over time.

The basic idea is simple:  A person’s “qualities” (talents, aptitudes, strengths, and weaknesses) aren’t carved in stone.  With the right attitude and effort, life can be a process of becoming better and better.

A fixed mindset views challenges as intimidating and threatening.  The challenges may expose an individual as lacking the “right stuff,” leading to insecurity and defensive behavior.  The fixed mindset may also result in a need to prove oneself repeatedly.  But as Dweck puts it:  “Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better?” (Carol Dweck’s 2007 book, Mindset).

Growth Mindset Misconceptions

Misconceptions have grown up around the growth mindset concept.  The first is that effort alone will lead to growth.  Effort is certainly necessary, as is perseverance, but more is required. When we’re stuck, for example, we may need a different perspective or a new approach.  In these cases, we may need to seek outside advice, whether from a peer or a professional, such a coach

Another misconception is that people either have a “growth mindset” or a “fixed mindset,” with no middle ground.  This can lead people to believe – wrongly – that they already have a growth mindset and don’t need to take any action. 

But as Dweck wrote in a 2015 article: “Let’s acknowledge that (1) we’re all a mixture of fixed and growth mindsets, (2) we will probably always be, and (3) if we want to move closer to a growth mindset[,]… we need to stay in touch with our fixed mindset thoughts and deeds.” 

The growth mindset can be developed just like any other quality. 

The Growth Mindset Can Benefit Organizations As Well As Individuals

The growth mindset isn’t limited to individuals.  As Dweck noted in the Harvard Business Review:  “When entire companies embrace a growth mindset, their employees report feeling more empowered and committed; they also receive greater organizational support for collaboration and innovation.”

Fostering an organizational growth mindset doesn’t just mean praising effort.  Results matter. Organizations with a growth mindset supports the development of individual team members, promotes collaboration across departments or business units, and encourages reasonable risk-taking.

Organizations, like individuals, are a mixed bag of fixed and growth mindsets. Organizations need to recognize triggers and transform fixed mindset tendencies.  Recognition is always the first step towards growth, including when you are better off seeking advice and coaching.

ForeMeta is a place where business leaders learn about self-leadership and about leading their teams and organizations.  We offer both individualized coaching or group coaching to help you, your teams, and your organization achieve greater success and fulfillment.  Please contact

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