The Mindset of Leaders is Key to Transformation Success

By the expert team members of Lexico

Mindset is key to a successful transformation

Lexico Experts Share their Thoughts on Transformative Mindsets

When an organization embarks upon its transformation journey, leaders may think the transformation is about successfully implementing new technology. 

But it is not.

The reality is, transformation is more about mindset and strategy than about technology.

What is a transformative mindset?

We live in a world that is becoming increasingly unpredictable, and leadership requires those who can effectively adapt to new ideas and information. The key driver is transformational mindset – a holistic approach to strategy and management that prioritizes agility and understanding why things are the way they are. As a result, leaders embrace the ability to change and become more receptive to new ideas.

The primary influencer in any transformation work is the mindset of the leader. It determines how leaders lead their teams as well as how they make decisions when faced with challenges or setbacks on projects. Leaders with a transformative mindset are able to see success even when there are obstacles in place; they tend to focus on solutions instead of problems; they’re able to motivate others by sharing their vision or goals for success; they tend not to let fear stop them from moving forward; they don’t let obstacles get in their way when trying something new and importantly, they don’t take failure personally.

The Importance of Mindset for Business Transformation 

While there are many bright shiny objects of technology that get all the attention, mindset is a critical element to successful transformation work. Without it, no amount of technology can successfully transform the organization. Technology is often the centerpiece of a transformation because of its tangible nature. However, transformation work is holistic and multidimensional, and the intangibles are the most influential determinants to success, especially mindset. With the right mindset, significant business transformation, value creation and sustainable competitive advantage can happen.

Our Lexico team of experts have seen firsthand the importance of mindset in making or breaking a transformation effort. The first in a series on mindset in transformation work, we’ve asked our experts to share their insights on the importance of leaders’ mindset in driving a successful transformation in 2021. Here are their answers.

(These interviews have been edited for clarity.)

1. There are critical business mindset attributes in being a transformative leader.

The willingness to address sacred cows, monuments and other ‘non-negotiables’ within an organization. Without the willingness to look under the hood at structural or cultural norms, transformation does not occur. – Chris Cabezas, Advisor

High listening capabilities, adaptability, being present, and a people-first approach. – Gus Lara, Advisor

The ability to see beyond what has been done in the past to what could be. The ability to frame barriers as opportunities to overcome negative thinking with creative thinking. The mindset that one is never done learning; transformative leaders are continually taking in new information and have the courage to change course or go back on a prior decision if needed for the greater good of the organization and the transformation itself. – Janna Roze, Advisor

Bravery: Taking a big step into the unknown. Tenacity: They don’t give up. Adaptability: Where you end up is very likely where you set out to be; Courage: Everyone will say it can’t be done. – Johan Sauer, Advisor

Results orientation (i.e., measurable), confidence & conviction toward the vision for the future; energy and passion to stretch people beyond their own beliefs of what can be achieved and go beyond incrementalism. – Damani Short, Co-Founder & CEO

2. Mindset is important in leading transformation efforts.

It is the fuel that drives the transformation. More than any other type of effort, leadership is key to a successful transformation. If you stay in a “transactional” leadership mindset versus a transformational one, employees will not have the direction and support to create the change. – Andy McCarthy, EVP Solutions & Services Delivery 

Human nature is to spend time resisting. Negativity can lead to doomed outcomes at the onset. As challenges surface, [the] need to focus on them as opportunities versus throwing [in] the towel and abandoning the idea [is critical]. – Dan Mishich, Advisor

The mindset of a leader truly is the primary influencer in any transformation work. The right mindset sets tone, provides vision and behavior expectations, provides or detracts from motivation, etc. Tools, technology, teams, etc. are used at the direction of a leader’s mindset about the work to be done, and the way to get it done. – Cynthia Short, Co-Founder & Chief Experience Officer 

You’ll never move a business, team, organization, or people toward the target if you don’t have a mindset that fosters behavior changes, which will yield fundamentally different results.  Mindset is a critical inhibitor and enabler. – Damani Short, Founder & CEO

A positive mindset that you can reach your goal is imperative. If the leader doesn’t sincerely believe, the team will not. – Tom Winter, Advisor

 3. A Leadership mindset can impact leading teams to transform.

Transformation will fail if it is done “to” an organization. It needs to be affected “with” an organization. Engagement is critical, and leaders own it. – Johan Sauer, Advisor

It can garner excitement. Most people want to be part of something big. If leaders have a vision with a mindset that the organization can achieve the vision, others will also shift their mindset to be open to the possibilities of transformation and eventually champions for the change. – Janna Roze, Advisor

Promotes teamwork and a can-do attitude, opening up lines of collaboration. Also promoting an environment of trust and no idea is a bad idea. Individuals are more apt to jump on the bandwagon as the energy builds and they will become more engaged. – Dan Mishich, Advisor

A leader’s mindset change is a first great step into transformation. However, to the extent that the mindset is shared before isolated efforts, the collective result will unleash the potential of a higher performing team. Transformation can be achieved faster and with longer lasting results, preparing the team for the next wave of change. – Gus Lara, Advisor

Transformation initiatives can be tough. There are many unknowns and lots of barriers. Having a healthy mindset keeps the process of forming new ideas with a team fresh, engaging and insightful. A mind full of ideas is contagious, making everyone involved give more to the initiative as well. – Chris Cabezas, Advisor

4. Shifts in the mindset of leaders often need to be made in order to be successful.

Shifting from doing to enabling. Many leaders have gotten to where they are by accomplishing many things. In leadership positions, they now need to enable others so they can achieve similar success and drive organizational value exponentially through others. – Tom Winter, Advisor

Leaders need to find a way to explore outside of “how’s it been done here before” or even “this is how I’ve done it before” which can be a challenge. Leaders are looked to for their experience and expertise, so it’s natural for them to feel like they have to know it all, which leaves little room for seeing things through a new lens. – Cynthia Short, Co-Founder & Chief Experience Officer 

Leaders are often used to working with significant facts and data. Transformations are too often devoid of the facts and informed by just the data one is used to. – Johan Sauer, Advisor

Shift from short-term focused to long-term focused. Transformation takes more than checking boxes in a project plan. It could require time for reflection, training to build new skills within the organization, culture changes, etc. Leaders should consider the ideal end state and identify the cultural and tangible barriers in the way to set achievable mid-point goals for the team to feel the satisfaction of progress while keeping the end state transformation in mind. – Janna Roze, Advisor

Shift from purely outcome-focused to inspiring the organization to achieve strategic goals, which sometimes are ambiguous. [Having the] willingness to take on risk, both personal and organizational, to achieve the future state. – Andy McCarthy, EVP Solutions & Services Delivery

Final Thoughts on Business Mindset and Leadership

Our Lexico experts agree on the following:

  • Mindset is absolutely critical for a leader to drive a successful transformation. Period.
  • It takes courage to be a transparent leader who is willing to depart from how things have always been done and instead, do what needs to be done.
  • While the technology is important as an enabler in a transformation, the importance of cultural change management cannot be underestimated.
  • The right mindset in a leader can energize the company, empowering teams to champion the transformation effort, propelling the whole organization to success.

In order to get the most of a transformation effort, leaders need to cultivate the appropriate mindset to drive the necessary cultural changes, and then form the strategy to effectively guide the transformation process, such as with the help of consulting services. This will ensure any new endeavors and solutions are being implemented in a way that supports the business objectives of the organization while at the same time, ensures maximum value creation.

To learn more about cultivating the mindset for a successful transformation, contact Lexico.