The importance of the inner attitude

Management style determines how people work together in a company, and therefore impacts both output and innovative ability. So mindsets really do matter. The mindset of a manager can be more important for the sustainable success of a company than his or her actual skills.

How managers understand and live leadership depends on their personality and mindset. Both can be nurtured

There is enormous unlocked potential for development here – for both companies and for managers themselves.

Managers can develop their mindsets and hence their leadership style at any age – provided they are motivated to do so. Before entrusting an employee with leadership responsibilities, companies should be in no doubt that this employee’s mindset and understanding of leadership will benefit the corporate culture.

The understanding of what leadership means changes from mindset to mindset

At the same time, the ability to cope with complexity grows; a skill that is becoming more and more important in times of digital transformation and demographic challenges. The mindset is therefore increasingly critical to success.

Our Six Mindset Model is a valuable tool to help you understand the different interpretations of leadership. It draws on the findings on ego development developed by Jane Loevinger, Robert Kegan and Dr. Thomas Binder. It outlines the characteristics of the individual mindsets and the courses of action that each one typically entails.

Four revealing questions on the development of leadership culture

Question 1: Where can I classify my leadership style?
The first step is to reflect on your own leadership behaviour. Sentence completion tests are very useful here. Our 6 mindset model can be really helpful as it examines the characteristics that are typical for each mindset, perhaps motivating you to take a more in-depth look at ego development.

When looking at your own management style, it is important to find out to what degree your own ideals tally with the mindset you actually live, and the situations in which a shift in mindset occurs.

Self-orientated leadership
Here, personal advantage is at the forefront of action, feedback is rejected, and the others are always to blame. Short-term and short-sighted action is taken and a “hire and fire” mentality permeates the leadership culture.

Group-centric leadership
Here, rules and norms are indispensable. Great importance is attached to conformity and loyalty. We think in terms of “either/or” and saving face is a key concern. Fixed job profiles are another feature of this management style.

Rationalistic leadership
Here, efficiency takes precedence, so continuous process optimisation is a major issue. Control is an important management function, and rational thinking and causal explanations determine action. Fixed ideas predominate, but self-awareness gradually starts to take shape.

Self-determining leadership
Managers with a self-determining mindset are self-confident and have respect for individual differences. They encourage self-motivation and are innovative. However, their own shadow is often still in the dark.

Relativistic leadership
Managers who cultivate this leadership style reflect on their own view of things. They have greater awareness of conflict situations. Their individual and personal manner and empathic leadership set them apart. Managers with this mindset recognise their own multiplicity.

Systemic leadership
Here, managers are able to understand systemic relationships and exploit multi-perspectivity. Managers with this mindset have a high level of knowledge about themselves and their own role. They are hugely motivated in terms of their own personal development and are capable of going meta. They are able to see the mindset their counterpart is acting from and modulate their behaviour accordingly. This improves outcomes and facilitates further development.

Question 2: Do I operate in an organisation where my leadership style is effective?
There is a field of operation that’s just right for every understanding of leadership. As such, no one mindset is better or worse than another. Its suitability and success more or less depends on a given context.
Whether the mindset I have so far inhabited has been advantageous or not can be answered when I ask myself the following questions:

  1. Have I evolved on a personal level, but my management style has remained “the same” and I no longer really feel comfortable with it?
  2. Do I want to develop myself and my leadership culture because I feel that a different mindset suits me better than the leadership style I currently favour?
  3. Do I recognise the need to develop my management style if my company is to continue to thrive?
  4. Do I want to change professionally, do I value an environment where my mindset can make a difference?

If you answered one or more of these questions with “yes”, you are well advised to move forward – towards a new field of operation or on an exciting journey to personal development. Because your mindset decides how and where you can be effective.

Question 3: How can managers develop their leadership style?
Reflection and inspiration will lead you to your goal. It is essential here to reflect on the mindset you usually find yourself in. From this starting point, the aim is to practise elements from the next mindset level so you can draw on them more and more in your leadership role. Role models provide helpful inspiration here. A personal coach with his or her own leadership experience and a relativistic or systemic mindset can provide targeted support.
From a self-orientated to a group-centric mindset, rules and a sense of community help impulse control.
In developing a rationalistic mindset it helps to be allowed to think freely and transcend judgement.
Empowerment is key to developing the self-determining mindset. Perceiving your own strengths and self-empowerment help you gain individual focus.
The keys to relativistic leadership are to embrace your own shadow aspects and welcome mindfulness. Letting go of cynicism and being aware of your own feelings widens the horizon and increases social competence. Agile methods and Design Thinking can be very supportive here – providing the corporate structure and culture are allowed to evolve too.
In order to be able to adopt the mindset of systemic leadership, it is essential to recognise the subjectivity of your thoughts and feelings. This heightens self-awareness and frees you from living the same patterns over and over again.

In critical situations it is impossible to avoid “dropping back” one or even two mindsets. If this happens, it is important to find your way back to the more evolved mindset as quickly as possible.
Beyond the personal level, it is advisable for management and the team to continue to address the issue of which mindset they are currently inhabiting. This clarifies whether it really is the mindset that is desired and stipulated.
If we want to understand complexity, it is important we practise systemic thinking together and learn to apply it more widely. 

Question 4: How do we pave the way for agile and co-creative processes in our company?Shared and lived values provide the basis for daily action at all levels. They serve as a compass and create mutual trust. Agile and co-creative work is only possible if there is trust between employees and for and from management.

These values first have to be identified then whittled down to a manageable 3 or 4. Here it is recommended you involve people from all levels, management as well as employees, in this process.

This process means that the common values promote identification with the company and lay the foundations for successful self-organised teams. And it also gives companies a clear competitive advantage because they can consciously and authentically apply their values in their external communication: both in branding and in employer branding

Mindset matters. Values confer meaning and act as a management instrument
For shared values to act as an additional leadership tool, the leadership culture must at the very least have arrived at a self-determining mindset. This is because the behaviour and mindset of employees cannot be influenced in the long term at the appeal level of the preceding mindsets. In order to anchor values in the company, in the leadership culture and in all the people who work there, the relationship level must be viable. The shared and lived values then provide a sense of common direction that employees can move it at their own individual pace.

Summary: If you want to be agile, you need 

  1. to be willing to develop yourself and support others in their development
  2. shared and “lived” values as a basis for mutual trust. 

This blog article (in German) looks into how developing personalities in the workplace can be crucial for a successful corporate culture.