ryan about

Ryan Gottfredson, PhD., is a mental success coach and cutting-edge leadership consultant, author, trainer, and researcher.  He helps improve organizations, leaders, teams, and employees by improving their mindsets. Ryan is the author of Success Mindsets: The Key to Unlocking Greater Success in Your Life, Work, & Leadership. (Morgan James Publishing), and Wall Street Journal and USA Today Best Seller.  Ryan is currently a leadership and management professor at the Mihaylo College of Business and Economics at California State University, Fullerton. He holds a PhD in Organizational Behavior and Human Resources from Indiana University and a BA from Brigham Young University.

Ryan has worked with top leadership teams at CVS Health (top 130 leaders), Deutsche Telekom (500+ of their top 2,000 leaders), and a couple dozen other organizations. He is also a former consultant for Gallup, Inc, where he helped dozens of organizations improve the engagement of their employees.

As a respected authority and researcher on topics related to leadership, management, and organizational behavior, Ryan has published over 15 articles in a variety of journals, including Journal of Management, Journal of Organizational Behavior, Business Horizons, Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies and Journal of Leadership Studies.  His research has been citied over 2,000 times since 2014. He resides in Anaheim, California.

For more information, please connect with Ryan at ryan@ryangottfredson.com.

Featured In


Change Your Mindset, Grow Your Profits! New Book Reveals How To Have a Success Mindset

All managers and executives want to lead their people successfully, to inspire more teamwork, greater creativity, and higher productivity. A new book, Success Mindsets:  Your Keys to Unlocking Greater Success in Your Life, Work & Leadership (Morgan James Publishing, Trade Paperback, May 2020, 246 pages, $17.95, ISBN: 978-1-64279-691-9) explores how one’s adoption of specific mindsets will open the door to career fulfillment and leadership success.

“The most common organizational problems,” says author Ryan Gottfredson, “revolve around poor leadership and management, low employee morale, a lack of inclusion, and an inability to effectively initiate and navigate change. All of that can change when an organization’s leadership recognizes it needs a change in its mindset.”

There are four mindsets today’s leader should embrace, according to the book.  They are:

  1. Growth mindset: believe that you and others can change abilities, talents, and intelligence.
  2. Open mindset:  seek truth and optimal thinking.
  3. Promotion mindset: have a clear purpose and destination that you are shooting toward.
  4. Outward mindset:  See others as people of great worth and value them as such.

By awakening to the foundational and crucial role mindsets play in your life, you can identify the ones that are most conducive to creating success.

Take a comprehensive, research-backed mindset assessment as a way to identify your current mindsets and get direction on how to shift your mindsets to become more success-oriented. Just go to: https://gottfredson.wpengine.com/successmindsets. It’s free.

You can become empowered to make the foundational changes required to cut your self-restraining mindsets and soar to new levels of success and your fullest potential.

This book is the most comprehensive treatise on mindsets to date. It is backed by decades of academic research, and it is also reader-friendly.

Ryan has identified specific mindsets that have been proven to drive success.  Ultimately, when we are blind to our mindsets, we put a limit on our success.  But if we can awaken to our mindsets, we unleash a world of possibility.

Ryan is available to explain:

  • Why it’s important to discover our mindsets and shows how to do so.
  • The pros-cons of various mindsets – and how they influence our success.
  • The challenges of changing one’s mindset – and rewards.
  • Why we are the way we are and how we don’t have to remain this way.
  • Real-life stories of successfully changing one’s mindset to have a more productive, fulfilling, and honest career.

What if you could know yourself at your deepest level? What if you could more fully awaken to how you see the world, why you possess the values and beliefs you have, why you have selected the goals you have set, and why you operate the way you do?  Wouldn’t you be able to navigate your life, work, and leadership more successfully?  This book provides a self-awakening journey for those looking to grow and improve.

Ryan’s research have uncovered some dismal leadership statistics that clearly speak to the need for new mindsets by today’s executives, managers, and leaders.  Research Found:

  • 40% of Americans rank their boss as “bad.”
  • 75% of employees report their boss is the worst and most stressful part of their job.
  • 44% of employers say their current managers do not help them be more productive.
  • 65% of employees would prefer to have a different manager compared to more pay.

Success Mindsets dives into how we see and interpret our worlds. This book provides readers with a proven framework that helps one dive even deeper within themselves than ever before. They will look closely at their foundational beliefs and internal mechanisms that power their automated processing and drive how they behave.  If they can awaken to – and improve their – mindsets they will unlock unlimited potential in the workplace and at home.

Pre-order your copy today


Ryan Gottfredson Q&A Success Mindsets

  1. Ryan, what inspired you to pen your new book, Success Mindsets? Have you ever been frustrated that you were not as successful as you hoped you would be? I have. I hate that feeling. But what I have learned through my failures and my academic research is that generally what has stood between me and the success I am seeking is my limiting mindsets. While we probably don’t realize it, our mindsets dictate the quality and success of our lives. Unfortunately, very few people know what mindsets they have or what mindsets they need to possess to achieve the success they are seeking. I wrote my book to (1) help people awaken to their mindsets and (2) empower them to accomplish greater success in their life, work, and leadership by harnessing the power of their mindsets.
  1. Why do you believe that knowing the mindset that you operate under will help you approach work and life differently? 95% of our thinking, feeling, judging, and acting are driven by our nonconscious automatic processes. This means that almost everything we do is done on autopilot. What drives our nonconscious automatic processes, or autopilot? It is our mindsets. This means that, for most of us, the quality of our thinking, learning, and behavior is driven by something we are not conscious of and we never give much thought to. And unfortunately, based upon my research, only 5% of people consistently possess the mindsets necessary for success. So, very few of us are mentally set up for success. But, if we can become conscious of our mindsets and work to develop more positive mindsets, we can unlock greater success across our life, work, and leadership.
  1. What types of mindsets are there? Mindsets have been studied by academic researchers for decades across multiple fields of study, including psychology, management, education, and marketing. Researchers in each of these fields have focused on their own unique set of mindsets, independently finding that each dictates the quality of our thinking, learning, and behavior. I have pulled these sets of mindsets into one framework. They are as follows:
      • Fixed (negative) and Growth (Positive)
      • Closed (negative) and Open (Positive)
      • Prevention (negative) and Promotion (Positive)
      • Inward (negative) and Outward (Positive)

Each of these sets represents a continuum, ranging from negative to positive. The mindsets that we possess fall somewhere along each continuum. What decades of research has demonstrated is that the more positive our mindsets, the more we think, learn, and behave successfully.

  1. How can one discover which mindset they tend to operate under? One of the keys to discovering what mindsets one possesses, we much learn what mindsets are “out there.” Without knowing what mindsets we can possess, and their respective labels, there is no way to identify our mindsets. But, once we have labels for and understanding of each of the mindsets, two primary options open to us. First, we can learn as much as we can about these mindsets. The more we learn, the more capable we become at identifying our mindsets. Second, to help streamline this process, I have created a personal mindset assessment that is designed to help people identify their current mindsets (relative to over 10,000 people who have taken the assessment)and identify the mindsets they need to have for greater success.
  1. As a leadership and management professor, how have you seen managers and executives discover better ways to lead others once they switched mindsets? When I work with leaders, they all say that they are trying their best. But the reality is that 60% of employees feel their leader damages their self-esteem, and 65% of employees would rather have a new boss compared to more pay. This means that most leaders’ current “best” is not their possible “best,” if not harmful. The reason for this is because most leaders have mindsets that cause them to think, learn, and behave in ways that they think is best, but is actually unproductive, if not detrimental. But, as managers shift their mindsets to become more positive, their thinking, learning, and behavior naturally improves, allowing them to be a more effective leader. 
  1. As a former consultant for Gallup, Inc., where you helped dozens of organizations improve the engagement of their employees, did you find there was one or two key things that all organizations had to do in order to change their ways? When organizations develop their leaders, they primarily focus on leadership behaviors. Leaders generally like this because such a focus essentially gives them a checklist of things to do as a leader. But, here is the problem: Leadership isn’t about DOING the right things, it is about BEING someone that others want to follow. What I learned at Gallup is that we did a great job of helping leaders know what to DO, but we never focused on helping them BE. This often resulted in leaders doing the right things, but generally for the wrong reasons. When leaders do the right things for the wrong reasons, the benefit is marginal at best. A focus on mindsets invites us to BE more instead of just DO more.
  1. Why do you challenge people to question whether the way they think is really the best way to think? The reason why people aren’t more successful and leaders aren’t more effective isn’t because they have bad intentions. No, we all have good intentions. The reasons why people aren’t more successful and leaders aren’t more effective is because of low awareness. In other words, we are generally doing what we think is best, but we are not self-aware enough to see how our current “best” is likely preventing our desired “best.” It is the case of good intentions, low awareness. Consider these desires: desire to look good, be right, avoid problems, and get ahead. On the surface, these desires seem good. They are desires we can justify. But, in reality, they are negative desires attached to our negative mindsets. They are negative because they are self-focused.
  1. You encourage people to adopt a growth mindset. What does that look like? When someone possesses a growth mindset, they believe that they and others are able to change their talents, abilities, and intelligence. With a growth mindset, individuals’ sense of self-worth is connected to their personal growth and development. Thus, wanting to enhance their self-worth, they are focused on learning and growing. Since the best learning comes through challenges and failures, those with a growth mindset embrace challenges and persists beyond failure. They believe that success takes effort and are willing to put in a great deal of effort to be successful. Also, since they believe that others can change and develop, they are more likely to take effort to develop others.
  1. When one develops an open mindset how does that help them drive success in others? There are two ways an open mindset helps one drive success in others. First, let me lean on my Gallup experience. Gallup has identified 12 aspects of one’s work experience that are important for employee engagement. Through some analyses that I conducted, I found that the most important aspect for employees being engaged was: “My opinions count at work.” Second, let me reference some research conducted by Google. Through a massive project called Project Aristotle, they found that the most important factor for top team performance was psychological safety, or the belief that one can speak up without negative repercussion. Both of these things critical to individual success, engagement and psychological safety, require those around them have an open mindset.
  1. Do more people possess an outward or an inner mindset. Why?  When someone possesses an inward mindset, they see themselves as being more important than others. This causes them to see others as instruments there to make them successful or as barriers that get in their way. In other words, it causes them to see others as objects. When someone possesses and outward mindsets, they see others as being just as important as themselves. Others’ needs and wants matter just as much as their own needs and wants. With this mindset, we are able to see others as people, and value them as such. I think we can all be inward and outward in any given moment. The real question is, what is your dominant way of seeing others: as people or as objects?
  1. How does a promotion mindset drive us to think differently, lead better, and act more successfully? When someone has a promotion mindset, their focus is on reaching specific goals or outcomes. When someone doesn’t have specific goals, their default becomes a comfort-focused prevention mindset. To understand the difference, consider two ship captains, each with a different mindset. The captain with a prevention mindset is going to have a primary focus on not sinking. They don’t care where they drift or end up, just as long as they don’t sink. The captain with a promotion mindset is going to have a primary focus on reaching a specific destination. The difference is that those with a prevention mindset end up in a destination not of their choosing, while those with a promotion mindset end up in a destination of their proactive design.
  1. You suggest that success requires us to get to the root of our pain. But don’t we always seek to evade or negate pain? If having negative mindsets prevents success, why would we develop them? The truth is that we develop our negative mindsets to protect us of fears that we have developed, specifically fears around looking bad, being wrong, having problems, and getting passed up. So, if we want to improve our mindsets, we are going to have to face our fears, and oftentimes along with that, previous pains that have left scars on our emotional psyche. When we understand this, we start to appreciate just how foundational our mindsets are to who we are and everything we do. Working on our mindsets is deep introspective work.
  1. You noted some damning statistics in your book, noting 82% of employees don’t trust their manager to tell the truth and that 60% of employees report that their managers damage their self-esteem. How did things get so bad? Short answer: good intentions and low awareness. Longer answer: I think all leaders are trying their best. They have good intentions. But, their current “best” is not always THE “best” way to operate. What leaders commonly fail to recognize is that possess negative mindsets that cause them to operate in ways that are detrimental to those around them. They also have low awareness.  So, why is this a systemic issue? It is generally because most leadership development programs generally do not focus on self-awareness, and they rarely focus on mindsets. Even if they do focus on mindsets, they generally do not have the knowledge and tools to be able to help leaders identify and improve their mindsets.
  1. We each see and interpret our worlds differently, and often we aren’t even aware of what’s really driving our decisions and actions. How do you encourage others to dive deeper within themselves than they ever have before? One of my most favorite authors and management-thought leaders is Bob Quinn (University of Michigan). He says that people transform for one of two reasons: crisis or deep learning. One of these options is something that we cannot control, the other one is. So, to encourage others to dive deeper within themselves, I help them see that if they want greater success, they need to transform. They need to see their world differently than they have in the past, and as they do so, they will improve their thinking, learning, and behavior; and consequently, their success. This transformation starts with deep learning about both themselves and their mindsets.
  1. If we are blind to our mindsets, do we in essence put a limit on our potential for success? Research across decades and four fields of study has found that there are mindsets that lead to greater success, and there are mindsets that limit success. If someone has any of the negative mindsets, they are effectively putting a cap on their potential for success. They will see and interpret their world in a manner that limits the effectiveness of their thinking, learning, and behavior. According to my research, 95% of people have at least one mindset that is limiting them to a certain degree. If these people stay blind to their mindsets, it is likely that they will not reach the full potential of their success. But, if they can awaken to their mindsets and develop more positive mindsets, they can unlock greater success.
  1. What can today’s manager of executives do to positively influence others to achieve goals? My favorite definition of leadership is: the use of power and influence to direct others toward goal achievement. I love this definition because it suggests that leadership is not about position, but one’s ability to positively influence others. If executives or managers want to do a better job of being a “leader” in this fashion, it is critical that they become someone that others want to follow. How does one become such a leader? They develop the positive mindsets. Who would you want to follow, someone who wants to learn and grow, think optimally, reach goals, and help others succeed (desires associated with positive mindsets), or someone who wants to look good, be right, avoid problems, and personally get ahead (desires associated with positive mindsets)?
  1. Technology, #MeToo, global competition, and so many other issues factor into a manager’s mind in how he or she tackles their job. They want to shine, be profitable, and lead others to elevate their careers. Can changing one’s mindset really help them? Leaders and organizations that are going to be most successful now and moving into the future are those that can navigate change, social pressures, market competition, and rapidly changing customer interests and needs. This requires that they be agile, innovative, change-willing, opportunistic, purpose-seeking, and problem-solving. It turns out that these characteristics are fueled by the positive mindsets that I focus on in my book, Success Mindsets: growth, open, promotion, and outward. The characteristics of the leaders and organizations that will be limited in their future success include being traditional, change-resistant, risk-adverse, comfort-seeking, and problem-avoiding. These characteristics are driven by the negative mindsets: fixed, closed, prevention, and inward.
  1. Why do so many organizations suffer from poor leadership and management, low employee morale and effectiveness, and an inability to effectively initiate and navigate change? What is organizational culture? At its root, an organization’s culture is the collective mindsets and thinking of its leaders and employees. When organizations have poor leadership and management, low employee morale, and are unable to effectively navigate change, it is a sign that the collective mindsets of the organization are causing leaders and employees to think, learn, and behave in ways that limit their success. When an organization’s culture is negative, it generally means that the leaders in the organization have created strategies, policies, and incentives that cause their employees to self-protect (seek to look good, be right, avoid problems, get ahead) as opposed to organization-advance (seek to learn, think optimally, reach goals, and help other succeed).
  1. Is the workplace all too often like life depicted on the old TV show, The Office? Or, is there hope that not everyone has a Michael Scott for their boss? The Office, and many of the characters in the show, are a fantastic portrayal of negative mindsets in action. The show demonstrates a manager, Michael Scott, who is trying his best, but because of negative mindsets is thinking, making decisions, and behaving in ways that make sense to him, but generally have negative effects. As a result, he creates a culture where the employees in the office feel the need to self-protect (seek to look good, be right, avoid problems, get ahead) instead of organization-advance (seek to learn, think optimally, reach goals, and help other succeed). But, the good news is that, through a focus on mindsets, we can develop leaders and managers like Michael Scott, to think, make decisions, and behave in ways that advance the organization instead of consistently hindering it.
  1. How do you help managers see their employees and colleagues as people of great worth and value their potential? To help managers see their employees and colleagues as people of great worth and value their potential, we need to better understand why managers don’t do these things to begin with.  What do most managers generally focus on? Generally, some sort of outcome that they are evaluated upon (e.g., revenue, sales, profits, customer service scores). Since these types of outcomes are what managers are generally focused on, what do they prioritize more: outcomes they are evaluated upon or the people they are managing? Unfortunately, the outcomes they are evaluated upon. This is what prevents them from seeing those they work with as being of great worth. Essentially, they are incentivized not to. To help managers value their people more, we have got to help them see the value of doing so, and help them develop more of an outward mindset.

How To Develop A Growth Mindset

In Ryan Gottfredson’s breakthrough book for managers and leaders, Success Mindset (Morgan James Publishing), he lays out four steps for becoming a better leader and adopting a growth mindset. He believes that you and others can change abilities, talents, and intelligence to impact positive change and greater productivity for yourself and in others. Here are his four steps:

Step 1:  Learn About Fixed and Growth Mindsets – And Identify Their Cues

A fixed mindset feels the need to prove one’s intelligence, talent, or superiority.  It values status, hierarchies, and being in control.  You feel like you can avoid doing things that are difficult.  You focus more on hiring top talent than developing current staff. You give excuses and blame others when things go wrong, as opposed to taking ownership.

Signals of a growth mindset include:

  • Getting excited about challenges and the opportunities they allow for learning and growth.
  • Taking ownership when things go wrong.
  • Looking for opportunities to share your power.
  • Wanting to work with and hire people you can learn from and who complement your areas of weakness.
  • Being willing to dig in and try harder if something does not come naturally to you.

Step 2:  Become Aware of Your Current Mindsets

With a knowledge of the different mindsets and their cues you become better at assessing and awaken to your current mindset.  Start by reflecting inwardly.  Introspect to determine the degree to which you value looking good and feel the need to validate yourself and your talents, abilities, and intelligence.  Seek to identify examples of when you have seen certain cues impact your actions.  Ask others for feedback on how they view your mindset. Learn about your own mindset by taking the mindset assessment at www.gottfredson.wpengine.com/successmindsets.

Step 3: Identify Your Destination and Chart Your Course

Once you have a grasp on your current mindset – your starting point – identify the mindset that you want to possess.  This is your destination. Knowing both your starting point and destination empowers you to chart a course for mindset improvement.  Try these activities:

  • Have small group discussions about fixed and growth mindsets.
  • Watch videos that promote the mindset that you want to develop.
  • Read and learn more about fixed and growth mindsets.
  • Journal – about failures and successes. Show yourself how to overcome challenges.

Step 4:  Let Go of Your Prevailing Mindsets

Changing our mindsets by engaging in the three steps above is not hard but it does take a concerted effort. It is this part that we often make difficult, mainly because it involves adopting new habits, and because change can be scary to some.  So how can you explore a new mindset?

First, learn about people who have changed and improved their mindsets.

Second, seek out little wins and build on a good foundation.

Third, engage in positive self-talk.

Other ideas include:

  • Redefine genius to be something that comes from hard work and not talent alone.
  • Disassociate criticism from failure, and see criticism as an opportunity to learn and improve.
  • See challenges similar to weight training and resistance w—they will make you stronger and more capable of taking on challenges in the future.
  • Become more realistic about the time it takes to learn a new skill (fixed mindset individuals overestimate the time it takes to develop a new skill and thus get frustrated faster).

Remember:  cultivating a growth mindset could be the single most important thing you ever do to help you achieve success.


To strive for open-mindedness, place an emphasis on seeking truth, develop a healthy fear of not having enough information, cultivate an intense curiosity to learn what stands in the way of your goals, foster an interest for seeing perspectives that differ from your own, and possess a willingness to accept being wrong – and being told so. Let go of your need to be right along with the inclination to give answers, look good, and feel in control.

Altogether, this requires humility, which allows us to create and fuel the culture of psychological safety that is critical for the success and effectiveness of any team:  work, family, athletic, and so on. 

Selected Excerpts

The Foundational Role of Mindsets

Since our mindsets shape how we see and interpret the world around us, our mindsets are at the foundation of who we are and how we live our lives. Because our mindsets dictate how we see and interpret our world, they drive our thinking, learning, and behavior.  Our thinking, learning, and behavior then dictate how successful we are across our life, work, and leadership, which is ultimately founded upon our mindsets.

Promotion And Prevention Mindsets

When individuals approach life and their activities seeking to avoid problems and not lose, they operate with a prevention mindset. But, when they approach life and activities seeking to make gains and win, they are driven by a promotion mindset. These mindsets and their respective implications on our life, work, and leadership rest on a continuum, with prevention on the negative side and promotion on the positive.  Just like the prior two sets of mindsets discussed these have profound implications.

Getting Real With Inward And Outward Mindsets

Of the four sets of mindsets, the inward/outward continuum can change within us the most rapidly.  Literally, in the course of a day, we can fluctuate between the two mindsets multiple times.

One of the critical things we need to recognize is that, regardless of our internal factors or environment, we can choose which mindset to adopt and utilize.  We can do anything with either an inward or outward mindset.  When in a competitive environment, I can allow my natural inward mindset to come out or intentionally choose to wear an outward mindset.  We have the power to adjust and change from one to the other, with significant positive effects to our life, work, and leadership.

Ultimately, as human beings, our most basic responsibility is to see others as people of value. This require an outward mindset. If we can upgrade our mindsets to be more outward, we will enhance that quality of our relationships, improve our effectiveness at work, and become leaders others want to follow and be influenced by.

Awakening To Our Fear And Self-Betrayal

The two primary reasons why we turn inward, fear and self-betrayal, make it easy for us to justify possessing an inward mindset.  When we are unaware of our fear and self-betrayal, we are oblivious that we even have an inward mindset and, unfortunately, blind to the fact that there is a much better and more productive alternative. Until we can awaken to the reasons why we turn inward, we will have a difficult time shifting our mindsets to be more outward.

Open And Closed Mindsets

Each mindset is driven by a different goal.  When we have a closed mindset, we are primarily concerned about being right and being seen as such.  We tend to think that what we know is best and therefore close our minds to the ideas and suggestions of others. We value only the information that supports and validates our ideas, while avoiding ideas that might indicate we are wrong.

When we have an open mindset, we are primarily concerned about seeking truth and thinking optimally.  This desire comes with the beliefs that we have incomplete information and can be wrong.  It drives us to be open to and seek out the ideas and suggestions of others to improve our current position and come closer to the truth.  With this mindset, we are able to put of four ego’s need to be seen as being right or having all the answers and avoid blind spots that limit the quality of our thinking and decision-making.

Embrace An Outward Mindset

A core message of this book has been that how we see our situations and the people we associate with changes how we think about them.  It is only when we have an outward mindset that we are able to see and appreciate the true value of others.  Having an outward mindset is the only way to see and appreciate the true value of ourselves relative to others.

Fixed And Growth Mindsets

When someone possesses a fixed mindset, they believe that their abilities, talents, and intelligence, as well as those of others, cannot change. When someone possesses a growth mindset, they believe that their personal attributes are able to change.

This is a small difference with huge implications.  Each of us has a battle going on within.  We want to look good to others, but we also want to learn and grow.  However, it is quite difficult to do both at the same time.  If we want to look good, we are unlikely to put ourselves in positions where we may make mistakes and fail.  But aren’t these the very situations where we are likely to learn and grow the most? To resolve this battle, we end up developing neural connections that cause us to focus on one over the other:  looking good or learning and growing….

Those with a fixed mindset place priority on looking good.

Those with a growth mindset place priority on learning and growing.  As such, they seek to put themselves in positions to maximize their development.  Rather than avoiding challenges or getting frustrated when facing challenges, they see them as opportunities to advance and progress and remain optimistic.