As Ryan Gottfredson, assistant professor of management at Cal State Fullerton’s Mihaylo College of Business and Economics, continues to explore what attributes make up a leader that people will follow, he has honed it down to four mindsets of effective leaders.
His study in Leadership Quarterly, “Exploring Why Leaders Do What They Do: An Integrative Review of the Situation-Trait Approach and Situation-Encoding Schemas,” featured earlier this month in the Harvard Business Review, synthesizes the latest findings from psychology, neuroscience and organizational behavior to leadership research, and concluded that mindset improvement is the best way to develop effective leaders.
This approach differs from the traditional focus on the traits that leaders need to have to succeed.
“Mindsets dictate what leaders pay attention to, how they process information and how they behave,” Gottfredson explains. “Mindsets make it clear why two leaders with the same traits — say extroversion and charisma — can react to a situation in completely different ways.”
Gottfredson’s four mindset areas, which exist in a continuum, are growth vs. fixed, such as if one is able or unable to change one’s abilities; learning vs. performance, whether one is focused on improving their actual competence or just how people perceive them; open vs. closed, as in openness to new ideas; and promotion vs. prevention, that is, whether one is seeking to gain and win as opposed to merely seeking not to lose.
A mindset of growth, learning, openness and promotion is optimal for leadership, according to Gottfredson, though there’s no reason to panic if you don’t naturally fit the bill. The management professor suggests interventions such as group discussions, writing assignments or video trainings as a way to develop this acumen.