Leading Self

Engage the Process

Learning Objectives

In this chapter, we examine the importance of having the right mindset when it comes to leadership development. We will also briefly describe the commitment, control, and the challenge of leading yourself before you lead others.

This chapter will help you:

  • Differentiate between a closed, open, and dialogic mindset.
  • Prepare for the 3 C’s of leadership development.



The concept of mindset has been at the forefront of leadership for the last two decades. One definition of mindset is simply, “the established set of attitudes of someone”.

In her most recognized work on the topic of mindset, ‘Mindset – The New Psychology of Success’, Carol Dueck defined a difference between what she describes as a growth mindset and a fixed mindset. As a simple example, the difference between these two mindsets is the difference between how one may think in regard to their intelligence. Those with a closed mindset believe they are either intelligent or not intelligent.

With a fixed mindset, one believes that their base traits, attributes, or fixed since birth. What they were born with is what they have to work with throughout their lives.

Conversely, with a growth mindset, one believes that their base traits, like intelligence, can be improved upon and increased. Simple statements like, ‘I can learn this topic’ or ‘I can get better at this skill’ is a simple example of someone who possesses a growth mindset.

More importantly, those who possess a growth mindset are more open to those leadership styles that are focused on growth and development. In contrast, those who subscribe to a fixed mindset will be resistant to those processes that are designed as proactive, relational, and pre-emptive activities for success.

In both the trades and business world, there is a common mindset of performance. Indeed, a performance mindset is inherently embedded in the apprenticeship-mentor model of training. However, while there is a focus upon performance there is an equal or greater emphasis on reaching external standards such as local and national codes, and consistent installation practices.

Being competitive and comparing oneself to an external standard is common and, in some cases, a needed variable in both personal and professional development. Yet, all too common these competitive environments tend to breed a culture where hierarchy and self-aggrandisement become more important than positive growth where a combination of individual and group success is the normative discipline. A focus on self and putting others in a lower status does little if anything to foster a collaborative environment.

In one final type of mindset, the dialogic mindset, we find those in leadership positions asking questions like, “Do we understand why Naveen comes to work each day?” or “When does Maria bring the best of herself and care about the company’s goals?” or “What is it about what we do that attracts people to want to become employees here?”.

The dialogic mindset seeks to have lots of dialogue surrounding complex issues arising from the relationships and interactions of employees. In essence, there is a blending of the growth and performance mindsets. This is an important distinction because those who only subscribe to, and operate within, fixed mindsets tend to lose their motivation after setbacks. Sometimes over setbacks which others would consider small and insignificant. Mindsets not only influence the way someone may judge themselves, but mindsets will also influence the way people in your organization will judge others.

Key Takeaways

In conclusion, we find that having a growth mindset over a fixed mindset is required for continued growth. We also find that striking a balance between the growth mindset and the performance mindset is crucial for not only your own leadership development but the continued success of your team or organization.

The 3 C’s

Just like leadership styles, people can change their mindsets. It takes discipline, deliberate practice, and a willingness to make mistakes, but the payoffs are well worth the investments upfront.

Commit – Yourself to the Process

“Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes; but no plans.”
Peter F. Drucker

When you first started your apprenticeship, you committed to a process of being mentored by others who had more experience, more skill, and more insight into your trade than you possessed. Then when you had invested enough time in developing your own craft, you were given the responsibility of having your first apprentice. With much still left to learn you were now responsible for the development of yourself and someone else.

Before committing to becoming a better leader of others, you must first commit yourself to the task of leading yourself. This will require intentionality and humility. It will demand focus and determination. The results will speak for themselves. Yet keep in mind that,

Real leadership is the daily moments – Kouzes & Posner

You must commit to a daily plan that will help you change your mindset, or at least sharpen your awareness of what it will take to see you develop as a craftsperson, business person, and a leader.

Control – Your Reaction to Your Surroundings

We’ve already discussed in a previous chapter the importance of having and developing emotional intelligence. It has been noted that one of the more notable characteristics or traits employers are looking for in their employees is the ability to maintain their emotional states in any given situation.

This will take practice however it will instill confidence not only in yourself but in those around you. Especially those who follow you. Keep in mind that before you can control your own emotions you must be able to identify the emotion you feel in a given situation, then chose your response. Too many times we have seen leaders perform in the exact opposite order. To the detriment of their influence and success, it may be too late after the fact to correct the damage done when a leader responds out of emotion first, logic second.

Challenge – Yourself to Grow

The third area can realistically only be acted upon after you have made the decision to commit to a process, or plan, of developing your leadership and gaining control of your emotions.

Challenging yourself to grow means intentionally putting yourself in tough situations that will stretch you beyond your comfort zone. It means acknowledging that the best way to become better at something is to place yourself in a position to practice that particular skill.

Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we’ll catch excellence.

Vince Lombardi.




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Entrepreneurial Leadership for the Trades Copyright © by Chad Flinn and Tim Carson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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