As someone who has interacted with thousands of entrepreneurs and business leaders, I have been witness to all kinds of leadership styles, some of them effective, some of them not.

I never thought to put together a list, categorizing their mindsets. Fortunately, I didn’t have to.

Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University recently published their work in The Leadership Quarterly and Harvard Business Review, looking beyond traditional leadership development to the specific developmental attributes that are foundational to how leaders think, learn and behave.

“Mindsets are leaders’ mental lenses that selectively organize and process information in unique ways, guiding them toward corresponding actions and responses,” Professor Christopher S. Reina said. “In other words, mindsets dictate what information leaders take in and use to make sense of and navigate the situations they encounter. Simply, mindsets drive why and what leaders do.”

The authors identified four distinct series of mindsets that affect leaders’ ability to engage, navigate change and lead more effectively:

  • growth vs. fixed mindsets,
  • learning vs. performance mindsets,
  • deliberative vs. implemental mindsets, and
  • promotion vs. prevention mindsets.

“If organizations want their investment in leadership development to more fully pay off, it is essential that they prioritize mindset development, specifically by targeting growth, learning, deliberative and promotion leader mindsets,” Reina said. “If organizations focus on and help leaders hone these mindsets, they are much more likely to give their leaders and their organization the gift of lasting and meaningful development.”

The professors noted that:

“A growth mindset is the belief that people, including oneself, can change their talents, abilities and intelligence, while those with a fixed mindset do not believe that people can change.

“A learning mindset involves being motivated toward increasing one’s competence and mastering something new. A performance mindset involves being motivated toward gaining favorable judgments — or avoiding negative judgments — about one’s competence.

“Leaders with a deliberative mindset have a heightened receptiveness to all kinds of information as a way to ensure that they think and act optimally. Leaders with an implemental mindset are more focused on implementing decisions, which closes them off to new and different ideas and information.

“Those with a promotion mindset focus on winning and gains. They identify a specific purpose, goal or destination and prioritize making progress toward it. Conversely, leaders with a prevention mindset focus on avoiding losses and preventing problems at all costs.

The research has many important implications such as enhancing leaders’ self-awareness, improving leaders’ meta-cognition and mindfulness, improving leadership effectiveness. and improving leadership development, according to the authors.

These insights are terrific for young entrepreneurs, learning on the fly. However, they’re also instructive for us who like to mentor young entrepreneurs. It reminds us that not every leader takes the same approach, and that’s okay.

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