Unleashing Potential: The Power of ‘Not Yet’ and the Growth Mindset in Leadership

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Carol Dweck, a renowned psychologist, introduced the transformative principle of “Not Yet” which has since been applied not only in education but also in the business world. This concept reshapes how leaders and employees perceive their capabilities and potential, signifying that professional growth is an ongoing journey, not a final destination. It encourages individuals to adopt a growth mindset, viewing challenges as opportunities for development rather than insurmountable hurdles. This approach not only cultivates resilience and perseverance but also redefines the meaning of effort and difficulty, turning them into stepping stones towards success. The power of “Yet” lies in its ability to ignite a spark of hope, confidence, and determination, guiding professionals on their path to career advancement and personal growth.

Servant leaders play a pivotal role in fostering a growth mindset within their teams. They lead by example, demonstrating that challenges are opportunities for learning rather than obstacles. They encourage team members to step out of their comfort zones, promoting the idea that intelligence and skills can be developed. They provide constructive feedback and celebrate effort and progress, not just results. This approach helps to create an environment where failure is not feared but seen as a stepping stone to success. Servant leaders also invest in their team’s professional development, providing resources and opportunities for continuous learning. By doing so, they cultivate a culture of growth and innovation, where everyone is motivated to improve and contribute to their fullest potential… or dare I say, get better and betterer?

A growth mindset is the belief that abilities and intelligence can be developed through dedication, hard work, and a love of learning. It’s about viewing challenges as opportunities to grow and understanding that effort is a key component of success. With a growth mindset, failure isn’t a reflection of one’s abilities, but rather a stepping stone for improvement and learning. It encourages continuous learning, resilience in the face of setbacks, and a focus on self-improvement rather than comparison with others. Cultivating a growth mindset can lead to increased motivation, productivity, and achievement, fostering a lifelong love for learning and personal development.


A fixed mindset, in contrast to a growth mindset, is the belief that abilities and intelligence are static and cannot be significantly changed or improved. Individuals with a fixed mindset often view challenges as threats, as they believe their abilities are innate and unchangeable. They may avoid difficult tasks for fear of failure, seeing it as a negative reflection of their abilities. Effort is often seen as fruitless because they believe talent alone leads to success. This mindset can limit personal growth and development, as it discourages learning and resilience in the face of setbacks.

Don’t judge those you lead! (Or yourself!)

From a biological perspective, a fixed mindset can be seen as an energy-saving mechanism. The brain is one of the most energy-consuming organs in the body, and learning new things or adapting to change requires significant cognitive effort and energy. By maintaining a fixed mindset, the brain can operate within its comfort zone, sticking to familiar tasks and routines, thus conserving energy.

It’s also important to note that having a growth mindset in one area doesn’t automatically translate to having a growth mindset in all areas. One might be open to growth and learning in their professional life, for example, but still maintain a fixed mindset in personal areas such as relationships or hobbies. Recognizing this can help individuals work towards cultivating a growth mindset across different aspects of their lives.


Here are 15 tips for leaders to foster a growth mindset in their teams:

  1. Model a Growth Mindset: Show your team that you’re always learning and growing. 🌱
  2. Encourage Risk-Taking: Let your team know it’s okay to take calculated risks and make mistakes. 🎲
  3. Provide Constructive Feedback: Use feedback as a tool for improvement, not criticism. 📝
  4. Celebrate Effort: Recognize hard work and dedication, not just results. 🏆
  5. Promote Continuous Learning: Encourage your team to learn new skills and knowledge. 📚
  6. Foster Collaboration: Promote a culture where team members learn from each other. 🤝
  7. Set Challenging Goals: Push your team to reach higher. 🎯
  8. Encourage Curiosity: Foster an environment where questions are welcomed. 🧐
  9. Provide Resources: Equip your team with the tools they need to learn and grow. 🛠️
  10. Show Resilience: Demonstrate how to bounce back from setbacks. 💪
  11. Practice Patience: Understand that growth takes time. ⏳
  12. Use Growth Language: Use words that promote growth, like “yet” or “learn”. 🗣️
  13. Share Success Stories: Highlight examples of growth and improvement. 🌟
  14. Be Open to Feedback: Show that you’re willing to learn and improve, too. 👂
  15. Create a Safe Space: Make sure your team feels safe to express their thoughts and ideas. 🏞️

Remember, fostering a growth mindset is a journey, not a destination. Keep encouraging and supporting your team along the way. 🚀 And remember (top of mind) that understanding the impact of chronic stress, burnout, and trauma is crucial for compassionate leadership. SAMHSA’s 4 R’s – Realize, Recognize, Respond, and Resist Re-traumatization – provide a great framework for trauma-informed leadership.

  1. Realize: Understand that trauma is widespread and can have profound effects on individuals. This includes acknowledging the role of trauma in mental and physical health, as well as performance and engagement at work.
  2. Recognize: Be aware of the signs of trauma, which can include changes in behavior, mood, or performance, increased absenteeism, difficulty concentrating, or seeming easily overwhelmed.
  3. Respond: Implement trauma-informed practices in your leadership. This could include providing flexibility, promoting a supportive work environment, offering resources for mental health support, and maintaining confidentiality.
  4. Resist Re-traumatization: Avoid practices that could potentially re-traumatize individuals. This includes respecting boundaries and ensuring that your workplace is a safe and supportive environment.

When fostering a growth mindset, it’s important to remember that individuals dealing with chronic stress or trauma may be in a fixed mindset as a form of self-protection or energy conservation. Be patient and understanding, and provide support and resources to help them move towards a growth mindset when they’re ready.

Individuals experiencing trauma may show up in different states of arousal based on their polyvagal state. The Polyvagal Theory, developed by Dr. Stephen Porges, explains how our nervous system responds to stress and trauma.

Some individuals may be in a state of hyperarousal or hypervigilance, characterized by heightened alertness to potential threats. This is a survival mechanism, part of the “fight or flight” response, where the sympathetic nervous system is activated. They may seem anxious, restless, or easily startled.

Others may be in a state of hypoarousal, which is a “freeze” or “shutdown” response when the threat is perceived as inescapable. This is regulated by the dorsal vagal complex, a part of the parasympathetic nervous system. They may appear disconnected, numb, or fatigued, and may have difficulty focusing or engaging in tasks.

Understanding these states can help leaders respond compassionately and effectively. For those in a state of hyperarousal, creating a calm, predictable environment can help them feel safe. For those in a state of hypoarousal, gentle engagement and encouragement can help them reconnect.

Dopamine, often referred to as the “feel-good” neurotransmitter, plays a crucial role in our feelings of pleasure and reward. It can help motivate us, increase our engagement, and improve our mood. For individuals dealing with stress or trauma, providing opportunities for quick “dopamine hits” can be a helpful strategy.

This could be as simple as celebrating small victories or progress, asking a “quick win” question when your team is learning something new, etc, as these can give a sense of accomplishment and boost dopamine levels. Encouraging breaks for enjoyable activities, like listening to a favorite song, taking a walk, or engaging in a hobby, can also provide a quick dopamine boost. Positive social interactions, such as a kind word or a moment of connection with a colleague, can also increase dopamine.

Remember, these “dopamine hits” are not a solution to trauma, but they can provide temporary relief and contribute to a more positive and supportive environment. It’s important to pair these strategies with comprehensive trauma-informed practices and resources for longer-term support.

Encourage self-care and work-life balance, and model these behaviors yourself. Celebrate small victories and progress, and remind your team that it’s okay to ask for help. And most importantly, create a culture of compassion and understanding, where everyone feels safe and supported.