5 Leadership Mindsets
Human work starts with your mindset.
In leadership, there is rarely a perfect blueprint or a foolproof strategy that we should all follow in order to achieve a certain outcome. The reality is less neat. It’s a matter of trying things, of taking that leap in order to see what works for you. During our research, we found these five mindsets are a way in, useful supports if you like for when you want to more more toward the direction of human work.
‘You have to make it up as you go along. There is no manual. You can provide anecdotal evidence of things that have been a success – they might spark something that you want to try. But mostly it is an attitude - don’t be afraid to try – take the risk.’
Mindset 1: Learning and Growth
‘People feel truly alive when they’re able to realise their full potential and feel they’re part of an organisation that allows that.’
– Ana Delgado
Our human desire to grow and learn is one that we heard many leaders refer to as they went about creating a more human work environment. They talked about creating cultures that enabled humans to work towards their highest potential or their evolving consciousness. Most spoke about growth and learning from a developmental perspective and used language such as ‘deliberately developmental organisation’ or ‘learning organisation’ to describe their approach.
Mindset 2: Everyone is a leader
Common ‘old school’ thinking around leadership sees the leader in a role with formal power to direct others. In this way of thinking, we see leadership as hierarchical, with ‘higher’ leaders wielding more power than the ones below. Power becomes a zero-sum game, allocated through competitions of merit. However, many of the leaders we interviewed see leadership as the ability to take action to positively influence the organisation. From this perspective, it is in the best interests of the organisation to increase everybody’s leadership capacity. And, on this basis, anyone can be a leader, regardless of whether they have ‘positional or formal power’.
Mindset 3. Belonging
‘I believe that true leaders create an environment around them where everyone is enabled to be their best and has the ability to contribute and feel that they belong as opposed to feeling that they are being used. Every time we interact with people is an opportunity to build this humanised approach. Every interaction matters.’
Belonging is a word that points us in a direction but doesn’t tell us how far to go. It’s a feeling that we can experience more of or less of - a sense that directs us towards connection and away from isolation. In an organisation, people may be all over the spectrum in terms of how much they feel they belong. They may experience this feeling changing over days, months and years.
We met leaders focussing on the mindset of belonging in truly creative ways, often linking belonging not just to colleagues, the organisation and team but also so society at large.
Mindset 4: Love and care
‘Our approach is extraordinarily successful because we have tapped into something far more fundamental to our true nature, which is the opposite of fear: love.’
Leaders we spoke to who saw the world through this mindset tended to put their love and care for human beings (and oftentimes the families and communities of those human beings) first. They used phrases like ‘truly human leadership’ and ‘caring and empathetic leadership’ to express their approach.
They all spoke of their care, and in some instances, their love for the people who worked in the organisation. In general, there was also an explicit acknowledgement that this meant encouraging people to show up whole - as their messy, authentic, human selves.
Some of these leaders went further and were intentionally curious about how, by creating the conditions for more care and love to show up at work, more care and love might show up in those families and communities that employees were part of.
Mindset 5: Human systems
Most companies use a problem-solving approach when they want to create change. This approach tends to work in situations with fewer connected elements where changes to one part of the chain have predictable downstream effects. However, in complex systems change like reorganisations or creating more human work, we find that elements are much more interconnected and tend to react unpredictably to problem-solving approaches.
Leaders who see workplaces as an evolving system have different intuitions about how to shift workplace dynamics. For them, organisations aren’t machines made up of cogs and gears, engineered to repeat the same actions day after day. Rather, they see it as a diverse, interdependent ecosystem that evolves all the time, with power dynamics, day-to-day shifts in roles and attitudes, differing styles and priorities and degrees of uncertainty in how it may act next.