Mindsets: The Key to Leader Transformation

Ryan Gottfredson

by Ryan Gottfredson

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Riley and Jordan are two regional leaders for a large bank who have just flown into Chicago for their organization’s annual meeting, which includes a variety of leadership development trainings.

In the days leading up to the training, both Riley and Jordan were encouraged to take a short personal mindset assessment.

Riley’s results were largely positive, indicating that s/he had Growth, Open, Promotion, and Outward mindsets. Riley was happy to receive verification of something s/he knew: she was on the right track with his/her leadership.

Jordan’s results revealed that s/he had more negative mindsets: Fixed, Closed, Prevention, and Inward. While Jordan was a little defensive about his/her results, s/he had to admit that this last year had felt like a huge grind.

During the first night of the annual meeting, Riley showed up to the social hour a little early, where s/he found the person responsible for putting together the annual meeting, Katie (the organization’s Director of Talent Development), talking to someone s/he didn’t recognize. After greeting each other, Katie asked Riley how his/her year had been. Riley summarized by saying that s/he had been working really hard, putting in 70-80 hour weeks, but that things seemed to be going smoothly. S/he felt that things were clicking on all cylinders.

After this quick exchange, Katie introduced Riley to Ryan Gottfredson, who would be one of the speakers the next day.

Later in the night, Katie was talking to Jordan and learned that Jordan was really stressed out about what was going on in his/her region. So, Katie pulled Jordan into an adjourning room away from the noise, where Jordan explained that s/he had been busting his/her butt off by putting in 70-80 hour weeks, yet despite his/her efforts, things didn’t seem to be getting any better. In fact, they were getting worse: Jordan was experiencing turmoil with his/her direct subordinates, a year of high turnover, and a change initiative that was taking longer to sink in than intended.

At the end of this conversation, Ryan Gottfredson walked into the room to ask Katie a question regarding his presentation the next day. Katie introduced Ryan to Jordan, and filled Ryan in on their conversation, hinting to Jordan that s/he would probably get out of Ryan’s training the next day. Jordan acknowledged Ryan by saying, “Oh, you’re the mindset guy who gave me my bad scores.”

Almost Every Event

This situation is obviously fictional, but something similar happens at almost every event that I do my trainings at.

What I find when I walk into an organization of leaders is that they all feel like they are busting their butts off. They are trying and working really hard, and they believe that they are giving it all they got.

Despite similarities in the leaders’ input, it becomes apparent that the outcomes across leaders are very different. There are some folks in the room who feel like their area of the organization is cruising on all cylinders. Their experience is like driving in a well-tuned sports car.

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND – JULY 13: The Aston Martin Valkyrie is seen on track after final practice for the F1 Grand Prix of Great Britain at Silverstone on July 13, 2019 in Northampton, England. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

But, there are others in the room who feel like their area of the organization is floundering. Their experience is like pushing a car through the mud: they are working really hard, not making much progress, and getting really dirty while doing it.

Role of Mindsets

The difference is in the leaders’ mindsets. If leaders have the four positive mindsets (or mostly positive), they are programmed to think, make decisions, and behave in ways that have a positive influence on the organization, and in ways that ultimately make their lives easier.

But, if leaders have the four negative mindsets (or mostly negative), they are programmed to think, make decisions, and behave in ways that have a negative influence on the organizations, and in ways that ultimately make their lives harder than it needs to be.


What I observe is that the leaders in these training rooms all have really good intentions. But, the sad reality is that many of them possess low awareness, particularly those with the negative mindsets. And, it is this lack of awareness that they are a primary contributor, even creator, of the issues they are facing that is preventing the success they are seeking.

Isn’t that what you have experienced throughout your career working with the leaders you have had? They have all been well-intended, but some have been great, while others have been poor. And, the difference is largely in how self-aware they are and the mindsets they have.

Effects of the Mindset Training

I go into the trainings that I do recognizing this. So, I know that it is my job to help the leaders awaken to themselves. To help them become more aware, specifically their mindsets.

It is always a really special experience.

In fact, let me tell you how it generally goes.

  • The training starts on a high note. There is a lot of energy, and the audience is excited to explore how they can become more of a positive influence and how they can make their lives easier.
  • As I reveal the importance of self-awareness to become a better leader, the room becomes split. Some people are really excited. Others start fidgeting in their chairs.
  • As I introduce the topic of mindsets and start walking through the different mindsets, the atmosphere in the room becomes very quiet and subdued. These leaders are turning inward, introspecting about something they have never really introspected about.

  • From there, we generally do some summaries and group discussions with a purpose of picking the energy back up within the group, ending back on a high note.
  • After the presentation, several leaders rush up to me. These first-comers are always those who have the positive mindsets. They are exploding with excitement because they can now see more clearly why things have been going so well for them. They feel invigorated
  • After getting through talking to the folks who first rushed up to me, I am met by some folks who are hesitant to approach me, but want to connect. These leaders are those who have largely had negative mindsets, and they generally express some sentiment around how until now, they have felt that they have always been in the “right” and that those they have led have always been in the “wrong.” For them, this is the first time they are recognizing how their style of operation driven by their negative mindsets is what has been the problem all along.

It is quite amazing to see so much awareness after one session. It is even better when I get to continually work with the organization and see the transformation that occurs over time.


As these experiences repeat for me, I am increasingly learning that nearly all leaders are well-intended and trying their best. But, what separates those operating like a sports car from those who operate as though they are pushing a car through the mud is their mindsets. And, if we can help them awaken to their mindsets, we empower them to transform.

If you would like me to do a leadership development training for your leaders, complete with a collective mindset report of the quality of your leaders’ collective mindsets, check this out: https://gottfredson.wpengine.com/collective-mindset-assessment

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