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10 Tips To Developing A Growth Leadership Mindset

June 23, 2021
6 minute read

It’s clear that over the last 18 months, as we have navigated our way through a pandemic, that we had to really develop our mindset as leaders. When we look at investment in early years, so much of the focus in on the children, settings and staff, but very little investment is made into the leaders of our settings. This is why here at the Early Years Leadership, our focus is on you, the leaders, owners and managers of early years settings across the UK, and beyond.

When we think of other industries, organizations worldwide spend roughly £350 billion on leadership development, yet this is rarely seen in the early years sector.  Investment in leadership is so often under valued in our sector, and we need to challenge and change this.

What’s more, research tells us that leadership development training overlooks a specific attribute that is the foundation to how leaders think, learn, and behave: that attribute is mindset.

Your mindset is your driver for what you do and why you do it.

Your mindset is effectively your mental lens, your attitude or disposition, that predetermines your responses to and interpretations of situations. Mindset dictates the information you absorb, how you make sense of that information and how you react to it. Your mindset is your driver for what you do and why you do it.

Of course, for all of us, our mindset will be different. Two early years leaders put in the same situation will often react very differently depending on their mindset. For example, let’s say there’s a complaint from a parent, one leader may take this very personally, whilst another may welcome the feedback as an opportunity to improve their practice, it all depends on their mindset. This is why mindset is so important. We can’t ignore mindset as it is a determining factor in how challenges are faced and we all know how challenging being an early years leader can be!

Growth & Fixed Mindsets

You may have already heard of growth and fixed Mindsets. If you have a growth mindset you will believe that if you’re not as good as you would like to be at something, you can work at it and improve. Any challenges or set-backs are re-framed as new challenges to overcome, and failure can be helpful in improving practice. A growth mindset is the belief that your skills and abilities are not set in stone, you can develop your talents, abilities, and intelligence.

So, on the flip side, a fixed mindset is restrictive, a belief that your knowledge, talents, abilities and intelligence cannot be changed. People with a fixed mindset are more likely to believe that they're either good at something or not and are often easily discouraged, possibly avoiding taking risks or trying new things because they’re fearful of failure. If we have a fixed mindset, we may shy away from challenges because we do not want to feel embarrassed or humiliated in front of others—who does, right?!

It’s clear to see how a growth mindset is important in early years leadership. 

Research tells us that a growth mindset enables us to have a positive approach to challenges. It allows us to take advantage of the feedback we are given to drive improvements in our practice and to use effective strategies to find solutions.0

So, if we know a growth mindset is important in our leadership, how do we ensure we have that mindset with us every day? There are small steps we can take as leaders to develop a growth mindset.

1. Know that no-one is perfect! We must accept and embrace our own imperfections and the limitations of others.  We are all individuals and it’s our little peculiarities that make the world an interesting place!

2. Take a breath. Sometimes, when faced with a challenge, your body can go into flight mode, wanting o run as far away from the situation as possible. But stop, take a breath and reframe that challenge in your mind.  Shift your perspective to see the challenges as a chance to learn and grow.

3. Be willing to learn. As we said earlier, there is little investment in early years leadership, so invest in yourself, you are worth it! Take on some coaching, engage with other leaders, develop a particular skill or read around a certain topic.

4. Be kind to yourself. Talk to yourself in the same way you would talk to someone else and watch your mindset change. Pay attention to the words you use and the tone you use, even in your mind. If your words are negative - I’m so stupid, I don’t know what I’m doing, I’m not capable of this – the outcome will be negative to.

5. The power of yet. Try adding the word ‘yet’ to the sentences you use when things get tough – I’m not very good at this, yet. I’m not sure how to handle this, yet. See how the result is more positive? Adding yet means there is hope, there is time and there is an option to find out the answers you need in order to improve and grow.

You do not need the approval of others

6. Develop self-acceptance. You do not need the approval of others, and seeking it can often prevent a growth mindset. Trust in your own abilities and be proud of yourself, give yourself a pat on the back!

7. Be your authentic self. When we become an early years leader, we often want to be someone different, perhaps emulate a great leader we have worked with. But being your authentic self is the only way forward long term. Becoming truly authentic  takes time and a lot of self-reflection, but once you dive deep into authenticity, you'll be more able to truly develop a growth mindset.

8. Find the positive. There is almost always something positive to be found within a challenging situation. Finding a positive amongst a whole heap of negatives is what will keep you motivated to face the challenge head on and develop yourself as you work through the challenge.  

9. Keep it real. Developing a growth mindset takes time. For some it comes naturally, for others it takes more work, but time doesn’t matter. What matters is that you keep reflecting, keep moving forward and acknowledge that you are doing your best.

10. Own it. If you see the value in a growth mindset, and understand how personal growth can support your own development, then take the time and make the effort to develop it for yourself.

Developing a growth mindset can be hard work, but you can gain so much by deepening your understanding of growth-mindset concepts and the processes for putting them into practice. Practicing a growth mindset will enable you to have a deeper sense of who you are, what you stand for, why you lead the way you do and how you want to move forward in your early years leadership.

If you have enjoyed this blog, why not check out some of the other resources available for you in the Leadership Lounge…

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