Mindset or Competency: Which is More Important?

By Linda Fisher Thornton

This post will explore the interesting relationship between leadership mindset and competency. Which is most important? What happens to our leadership capability when our mindset is out of date? 

How we think about something impacts what we do about it. Nick Petrie, Center For Creative Leadership, writes in Vertical Leadership Development Part I that “In terms of leadership, the stage from which you are thinking and acting matters a lot. To be effective, the leader’s thinking must be equal or superior to the complexity of the environment.” 

An “Un-Fixed” Mindset

Keeping an open mind and adapting when new information is available is important for our leadership success. Capability, or what we can do, is still important, but it won’t get us far if we’re using an outdated mindset. Our mindset needs to be upgraded regularly as the context changes or we risk missing important parts of the picture.

“Cognitive scientists are finding that people’s mental maps, their theories, expectations, and attitudes, play a more central role in human perception than was previously understood.”

David Rock and Jeffrey Schwartz, The Neuroscience of Leadership, strategy + business

Seeing From Multiple Perspectives

In Coaching Vertically, Jan Rybeck MCC writes that one of the significant elements important for vertical development is taking on the challenge of multiple perspectives. Besides helping us deal with complexity in general, being able to understand multiple perspectives helps us meet the needs of multiple stakeholders. It guides us to better decisions when we face difficult choices. It helps us navigate tricky issues that have many angles and helps us talk about them without rushing to take a side.

“The future of leadership is mindsets, not competencies.”

Charles Palus, Senior Fellow at the Center for Creative Leadership, Vertical Leadership Development For a Complex World

We need to carefully look at mindset, world view and assumptions before we move great individual performers into leadership positions. Sherryl Demitry, PhD writes in Training Industry that “it is common for people to be promoted into higher levels before achieving the vertical proficiency to be effective and successful at that level” (Disrupting Best Practices in L&D: Differentiating Horizontal & Vertical Development). Think about a time you observed a new leader using the mindset of a professional and making rookie leadership mistakes.

Mindset Problems Can Lead to Leadership Failure

When we broaden our mindset to adapt to change, we open up new terrain for learning and leadership. Gaining new competencies without the necessary mindset changes will be ineffective at best, and may even be harmful.  Think about a leader using an outdated mindset about human rights and treating certain groups of people negatively. That leader may “delegate effectively” in terms of how assignments are communicated and tracked, but may deny certain types of people access to opportunities to grow. This failure in leadership is due to a mindset problem that can quickly turn a “competency” like delegation into unfair practice.

I would have to say that leadership mindset is more important than competency. If you lack certain competencies or have the wrong competencies for the job, you can learn. If you have a “fixed” and outdated mindset, however, you will resist learning and potentially do more harm than good. 

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Use It Or Lose It

By Linda Fisher Thornton

I recently started studying the German language again, relearning it a little bit every day. I studied it for years as a teen, and lived in Austria for a summer as a young adult. Once fluent, I haven’t practiced the language regularly and have become rusty over the years. 

It doesn’t take long to begin to lose vocabulary, grammar and confidence if we’re not using a language regularly. 

Losing fluency gradually over time brings to mind what happens to our leadership if we’re not learning new things every day. It’s sometimes a slow erosion of capacity, like losing a handful of grains of sand from a beach each day. We may not notice it’s happening until we find ourselves underwater. 

How can you move your competence as a leader into your daily priorities

What areas of your leadership are slowly going underwater due to a lack of attention and practice? What will you do today to stop the erosion? 

 

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9 Questions for Ethical Leaders in The New Year

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

As we head into the New Year, use these questions to plan how you will transform your leadership, your workplace and your world.

1. What are my specific priorities for improving myself as a leader in the coming year?

2. How can I set a better example for those I lead?

3. What are the ethical values that drive my leadership?

4. How well do I live out the ethical values that I say are important?

5. What can I do to make sure that those I lead will find me worthy of their trust?

6. How can I more freely trust others, creating a positive dynamic in my relationships?

7. How can I help my teams understand the shared priority of safeguarding our ethics?

8. How will I create the kind of work environment that brings out everyone’s best?

9. How will I stay competent in my leadership and my ethics?

Ethical leadership is not something we will ever “finish” or check off a list. It’s a lifelong quest. Take the time to plan now for your ethical success in 2015. Get ready for the future of ethical leadership.

 
522For more, see Linda’s book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?
 
  7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
  2014 Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
  About 7 Lenses
 
 
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 Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership™                                                                                                 LeadinginContext.com

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