In our world that is filled with so many competing entities striving for success and aiming to consistently achieve greater heights, the chaos and repetitiveness of corporate life can get to any of us. Words such as ‘success’, ‘fulfilment’, ‘achievement’ lose meaning in our everyday race towards becoming effective women leaders. Adding to this, there are many structures within and outside us, that affect our thought process, most often impeding our growth. What can a leader do then? What can make our role as women leaders exciting ?
Researcher Carol Dweck introduces the term ‘growth mindset’. In her book, Mindset: A New Psychology for Success, she explains that a person with a growth mindset is one who believes that one’s character, intelligence and creative abilities have potential to grow and change. In order to overcome the mundaneness, this growth mindset can be developed to become a powerful leader and gain satisfaction from the work we do. This means that we use challenges as an opportunity to shift our thought process, and develop a powerful leadership approach.
This requires us, as women leaders, to ask ourselves-
- What do I see myself growing into?
- What are my focus areas?
- What goals can I set to motivate myself and my team?
- What new skills can I develop to kickstart work on these goals?
To answer these questions, it becomes necessary to get in touch with our inner selves. It becomes imperative to understand the forces that drive us from within. As a psychologist and leadership coach, I saw the merit of building these themes into my leadership course – STEP UP. Knowing our inner landscape, strengths and the narratives that hold us back provides women the power to navigate their careers potently and consciously.
An architect spent her whole career working on commercial and housing projects. But there was some excitement lacking towards her work. She then realised that developing community-living projects was what would excite her the most. This was the area of her core care and how she wished to grow her professional identity. Re-building existing community structures and enhancing community spaces became her new goal. She began to volunteer for more such projects. She honed her design skills further to be able to produce better results. This renewed her focus in her job and workplace, she was better able to lead herself and derived more satisfaction from her work.
Some aspects we can reboot ourselves and our professional identity are to reflect on:
What do we care about professionally?
Firstly, we must identify the areas that we deeply care about professionally. Defining a few areas is important so as not to be pulled in all directions. When we define the focal point of our professional commitment, we will be motivated to invest our time, energy and resources in those areas. It also clarifies the kind of work we would and would not be engaging in.
Knowing our inner landscape
Secondly, we must understand our inner landscape. This landscape contains our ideas, emotions, thoughts, beliefs, and feelings about self and others. This inner landscape has answers to various questions such as: What is limiting us and stopping us from growing? How can we move beyond this and act effectively? What aspects from my past shape me and hold me back? This is about understanding your individual narrative on success , aspirations and leading.
Shaping our public identity
Thirdly, we must be willing to shape our public identity as leaders. In order to do this, we must understand how we are perceived by those around us. Be it peers, bosses, team members, clients and collaborators, we need to have a sense of how we appear to them. Do we come off as approval seeking? Are we perceived as a value add to our team? Are we seen as conflict averse or conflict seeking? Once we understand this, shaping our identity and how we present ourselves to others can open doors of opportunities for us.
Being the hands that mould
Finally, as women, we need to become the hands that mold the clay instead of being the clay that gets moulded. This means that we must take charge of our careers. We must use our agency and resources to shape our careers and not let ourselves get carried away by other forces within and outside of us.
Developing a growth mindset would mean–focussed action. Identifying our areas of interest, setting goals and preparing timelines for ourselves and our team, tracking these goals and consistently checking our progress, learning and developing new skills as and when required, networking and collaborating with other leaders, and getting a mentor or enlisting a partner to check accountability on achieving these set goals. This would create a space to stay motivated and challenge ourselves.
A growth mindset also means shifting our understanding, significance and impact of failure. Each day at work would be an opportunity to grow and explore new possibilities. Setting goals and strategizing action around them will provide us with effective leadership quality and styles. Most importantly, it would embolden and empower us to become effective and impactful leaders.