Talent and hard work aren't enough to achieve success. While you can't succeed without them, ask anyone who found out the hard way that "You can do anything you want if you work hard enough" isn't true.
Putting in lots of hours is how you became an expert and earned the right to lead others. But without the right mindset, all that hard work and talent will be wasted. You'll struggle to identify opportunities to grow your company, your employees and your own talents.
Psychologist Carol Dweck explains in her book Mindset that leaning on talent results in a "fixed" mindset, in which you believe you're born with a predetermined amount of talent. Set-in-stone strengths and weaknesses can become excuses: "Well, I missed that calculation because I'm just not good at math."
A growth mindset, however, sees everyone as a work in progress. Our skills and talents are fluid. They can improve or change as we gain knowledge and experience. Dweck says mindsets aren't permanent: At any time, you can adopt a new way of seeing things.
Decades of advice have pushed leaders to control people, processes and strategies for growth. Those leaders often hold on so tight that they constrict people, preventing them from contributing at the highest level. Employees -- and, as a result, businesses -- can grow stagnant.
Here are four ways you can start seeing things differently and grow your company:
1. Give Up 'Idea Trademarking'
Leaders who believe they don't -- and shouldn't -- have all the answers are more relatable. They also grant unspoken permission, encouraging others to develop ideas of their own. No successful company has ever been fully built on one person's inspirations, hard as it may be to remember that.
"The sign of a true leader is one who can get out of his own way and let the best ideas win. Instead of leadership as a dictatorship, it should be leadership by meritocracy," explains David Neagle, author of The Millions Within and one of the mentors who helped me shift my own mindset. "The collective thoughts of everyone in the trenches doing the work is bound to bring out the best idea."
2. Empower Others
There's a huge difference between telling others what to do and letting them find their own way. Viewing teammates as pawns on your personal chessboard is dangerous -- you'll miss great ideas and become a leader who lacks empathy. Eventually, no one will want to play your game anymore.
Leaders should only interject when necessary -- otherwise, they're playing it too safe. When a marketer proposed adding a newsletter to my podcast's email campaigns, I hesitated: As a podcaster in the digital sphere, I assumed most consumers would prefer audiovisual-focused platforms to text-based ones.
Then, I remembered this lesson and let it launch -- and was proven wrong. We gained a higher click-through rate on some newsletters than emails, and new podcast listeners via the newsletter.
3. Embrace Failure
Overprotecting employees is the flip side of empowering others. Some leaders are so determined to protect their teammates -- and themselves -- that they avoid risks altogether. In fact, most managers are trained to assess and eliminate risks and rewarded with bonuses when they thwart costly problems.
When one of my companies reached $5 million in revenue, I started playing it safe. I didn't start new projects. I no longer had nothing left to lose. I let my fears control me, which eventually spawned my book The Trap of Success. Modern leaders have to spot opportunities that trigger fears of failure and move forward. Often, the right path forward is the hardest path.
4. Bask in Transparency
The core of trust is radical transparency, or refusing to shut down. You'll never hear great ideas, convince others they're trusted or become the poster child for failure if you hide behind silence. People have active imaginations that will fill in gaps where you don't.
Successful leaders are willing to have conversations that make them think. Boris Groysberg and Michael Slind explained in Harvard Business Review in 2012 that their study over the previous two years that revealed that modern leadership was a conversation.
"Organizational conversation...requires leaders to minimize the distances -- institutional, attitudinal, and sometimes spatial -- that typically separate them from their employees," they explained. "Where conversational intimacy prevails, those with decision-making authority seek and earn the trust (and hence the careful attention) of those who work under that authority."
You may have been sold "talent and hard work," but that's not how you'll build a high-growth company in the 21st century. To embrace a true growth mindset, you have to move beyond what's comfortable and guaranteed. Nothing, after all, is permanent -- including your way of seeing things.