Have you heard of the false growth mindset?

Dr. Dwek more recently writes about ‘the false growth mindset’. This is about acting like we have understood the growth mindset when actually we haven’t. She says we have mistakenly thought that a growth mindset is mainly about praise of efforts irrespective of the outcome. That is not the case. Outcomes matter too.

A Reality check.

No one has a growth mindset about ‘everything’ in life. We have it in some domains, and in other domains, we don’t.

We may have a growth mindset towards financial abundance, but a fixed mindset when it comes to our health. We may have held the fixed beliefs around health for a long time and this is not going away in a hurry. Mindset is about beliefs and we tend to forget that.

No one has a magic switch:  No switch exists that takes us from fixed thinking to growth based thinking.

We cannot read a book on growth and implement our learning the next day. It takes time and many steps to change even the smallest of habits. 

Growth mindset needs practice. We have built muscle by practising the fixed mindset in some areas of life. We need to build a new muscle for growth thinking. It involves many permissions we give to ourselves. Growth mindset takes time to develop. 

You don’t get a growth mindset by proclamation. You move toward it by taking a journey — Dr. Carol Dweck

8 signs of how we fake it! 

As leaders we wish to be role models to our teams as we practise a growth mindset. Yet some of us need to be aware that we may be faking the growth mindest. Some ways to recognise this are:

  1. Challenges scare us:

    The growth mindset is about accepting failure and then picking ourselves up. Some leaders have a fear of failure.We do not wish to acknowledge our failures or talk about it. Our failures embarrass us. So, we do not attempt challenges. We do not stretch beyond our comfort zone.Veena was tough on her team when they messed up. Teams cannot be great and successful 100% of the time. Instead of using failures as a learning experience, she was critical. The team’s morale would hit a low for a few weeks. Her own attitude of not wanting failures ever was an example of a ‘fixed mindset’. She often espoused growing from one’s mistakes. There was a gap between what she said and her actions.


  1. Our goals have no hands or feet:

    We set goals but do not have a plan. Because there is no plan, there is no effort.Sumit was a leader in sales. Lived out of suitcases and hotel rooms. In our coaching work he expressed wanting to lose weight as he had become obese due to his food habits. He spoke a lot about understanding the implications on his health, his family. He realised the risks of disease. He shared that he set a goal with his wife that he would drop 20 kgs over the year. But the year passed by and he made very little effort. Goal declared, but no plans.Making a goal known is not enough. Feeling keen and motivated to work on it does not mean there is a growth mindset.


  1. We don’t stay consistent:

    My coachee tells me she is glad to work with me as consistency impresses her. A growth mindset understands that reaching outcomes isn’t a ‘magical’ experience. It takes consistent walking; putting one step ahead of the other.Poorna wished to build a learning culture in her team. The team and she decided that they would do team seminars every month. They began with gusto, and the first two seminars were great. The team then lost focus as busy times set in. And Poorna too forgot. Needless to say, very little shift in culture happened:) As a leader, Poorna needed to have impressed on the team, a consistent action. Consistency strengthens the growth mindset.


  1. We stay hooked to approval:

    Leaders seek affirmation too! From boards, higher management, teams, and peers. Some leaders hate to show up as ‘less achieving’. Hate to see their plans achieving mediocre results. I wish to offer some questions here:
  • Are you unforgiving of yourself when you make a mistake?
  • Are you embarrassed in front of a higher authority if you cannot fulfil a commitment that you have made?
  • Are you able to embrace your imperfections in front of your family and friends?
  • Do you hide behind vagueness when you are unclear?


  1. We do not lead from ‘purpose’:

    Leaders need a northstar, or dare I say a few northstars. Just a few, not a big list 🙂 These define the goals that wake us up each morning. They define what we truly care about when we lead.Our purpose is clear. We speak it, we make time for it, we commit to it.Alok was leading for over 20 years. He had done well for himself in a large MNC. I thought I was hearing all signs of burnout and disinterest as he spoke. It was clear he no longer was in touch with his ‘why?’.  Why was he doing what he did?  Why did he wish to open more possibilities at work when his heart and mind felt drawn to something else? Why did he commit to a 1 year stay in another country when he actually felt he was unavailable to his family at a crucial stage in his children’s life?This is a great example of misunderstanding the growth mindset.


    A growth mindset as opposed to a fixed mindset is about knowing what is important and leading from that place of clarity.


  1. We do not show up as ‘This is me’:

    We cannot be ‘all good’ and ‘all is well’ all the time in life. Good days and bad days are part of our life’s reality. Some of us have a deep need to always be in a good place. We are unable to accept, let alone express, that we are in a tough spot or on a difficult day. We are unable to show up as ‘real’. This attitude does not consider our humanness. We can only show the world our ‘best face’.  A growth mindset accepts.


  1. We are blind to our thoughts, feelings and triggers:

    Denying or trying hard to please or behave in a limiting way is about our beliefs. Our beliefs sit underneath our actions. Faking a growth mindset also means avoiding looking at the underside of our behaviour.What beliefs do we have about a situation?
    What are we feeling at that moment?
    What triggers exist in the situation?
    What patterns do we see in our reactions?These are important explorations. Without these we cannot see new options for ourselves.Rakhi was on a weight loss journey. She had been on many diet plans before and failed. This time she decided to make journal notes on the moments when she lost her will power. She discovered her boredom patterns and emotional disturbances which led to careless eating. She could then provide herself new options including making lifestyle changes. Being aware of triggers helps us not fall for it.


  1. We get defensive when criticised:

    Constructive feedback and criticism are part of any leader’s life. When we show an inability to receive it, reflect and respond to feedback, it shows a lack of awareness. Feedback can be a gift  and those with a growth mindset understand the value of such reflection.Sridhar repeatedly got feedback from his boss that his style with his team was abrasive. Sridhar discounted this feedback as he believed ‘in sales we have to be pushy and aggressive’. He wanted to motivate his team by challenging them. In doing so Sridhar did not grow to be a respected leader. His team did not grow in their strengths as they felt discounted. Both sides did not grow. Sridhar could only value the outcome but not the process of how he worked with his team. Not reflecting on feedback led to demotivation, attrition and low energy.

Building a muscle for a ‘real growth mindset’ needs practice. Look forward to seeing my solutions and 10 practices you can adopt to develop a growth mindset and get rid of the fake growth mindset!

Sailaja Manacha
Sailaja Manacha

Sailaja Manacha, a Master certified Coach from ICF, is known for her programs and coaching methods that combine psychology with leadership practices. In her work, Sailaja draws from Psychology, Ontology, NLP and Spiritual frameworks as well as rich, real-world experiences.

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