Leadership is first and foremost about success, but CEOs and corporate managers are bound to experience setbacks. As leaders, how we deal with these setbacks impacts heavily on our future trajectories, but it’s often about how we see ourselves as leaders that can influence where we go once we reach an impasse. 

Performance versus mastery

Research has identified two overarching mindsets present in many individuals. The performance mindset leads us to compare ourselves to others and base our own success on where we stand in the pecking order. This might appear, at first glance, to be a sensible and adaptive strategy, but in reality, it can be detrimental to long-term success, in particular, the way we deal with and recover from setbacks.

Performance orientated leaders value success over everything else, even if that success leads to short-term gains and is achieved by exerting less effort. They display a tendency to take on less demanding challenges because they know that they have a better chance of succeeding.

Conversely, a mastery orientated leader views success as tightly bound up with nurturing adaptive qualities and believes that success naturally emerges from an effective skill set. They display a tendency to take on greater challenges, firm in the belief that they possess the skills to overcome and learn from the setbacks that often result from taking on more difficult tasks.

When setbacks arise

No matter how well we plan, it’s inevitable that at some point things won’t work out the way we anticipated. Performance orientated leaders will experience fewer setbacks, but only because they remain reluctant to accept more challenging tasks. When they do experience setbacks, they are much more likely to give up and move on to some other less demanding enterprise.

The mastery orientated leader views setbacks in a different way. Confidence in their own ability to overcome challenge allows them to bounce back and drive forward towards a more successful conclusion. Mastering the situation and the skills necessary to accomplish the task results in more effective long term solutions. Setbacks are seen as part of the process and something to be overcome, rather than a sign of weakness.

Nurturing a mastery orientation has been shown to greatly impact long-term resilience and ultimately lead to greater success in domains from education to business leadership. Changing your mindset from performance to mastery isn’t easy but, then again, if it isn’t challenging then it’s probably not worth it. For more leadership advice and tips, contact us at Anthony Gregg Partnership today.

Worried! by photoloni licensed under Creative commons 4