Leaders of the future must cultivate growth mindset

Monday September 04 2023

A photo illustration. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK


As a student of history, I have over three decades, studied some of the most successful companies. I have even had the privilege of working as a consultant with a number of them, helping their leadership at the highest level. From this vantage point, I have observed one of the top reasons companies, people and even nations fail. It is assumptions based on confidence built on the past.

Perhaps no story brings this out as well as the Ol Testament story of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt. When they got to Horeb, God commanded Moses to hit a rock and water would come out so that the people would not die of thirst. He did and just as he had been told, water flowed out.

However, on another occasion years later, they were once again thirsty and this time God told Moses to speak to the rock. However, Moses went and hit the rock just like he did the first time. This very act cost him the Promised Land.

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So many people miss their targets/promised land for the very same reason I call the Moses Error. The Moses Error is the inability to move away from an outdated model onto a new one because of the comfort provided by the old model. After all it worked so why change it?

Let me give an example of a CEO who I will call Tim. He worked in a FMCG environment and he did wonders. He was celebrated everywhere and people wanted to learn from him.


Based on these accomplishments he was poached by a totally different industry. He found himself in the service sector. He came in highly recommended and an impressive track record. However, Tim failed so miserably and had to be relieved of his contract. He failed to reach his promised land.

Beware the Moses Error

The assumption that the present and the future will mirror the past has floored many brilliant people. They failed to build on their experience and apply it to future scenarios. For this, one must humble oneself, be teachable and flexible. These are key ingredients for continuous relevance and success.

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What a shame it is to have won the past, struggle with the present and then ultimately lose the future. Truth is that no one has experience for the future. It is only if we expect the future to be a replica of the past that experience becomes the major determining factor.

In this regard, a teachable person with no experience will always go further than a rigid person that comes armed with experience.

With the fast pace of innovation, the only insurance against irrelevance in the future is the insurance provided by humility and teachability. It is the insurance provided by not insisting you want to hit the rock when you should be speaking to it just because you hit it last time and water flowed out.
In year past, there was what was called the knowledge divide between developed and developing nations.

And if a song was released in America, it took a week or two to get to the UK and another two to four weeks to get to Africa. Today, however, it happens in real time. Information is everywhere and it gets churned out at an alarming pace — much faster than any mortal can make sense of. This is why data analysts are going to be among the most preferred jobs of this new era.

The leader of the future is not the one with most experience. It is the one with the fastest rate of converting data to solutions. The one who exchanges their fixed mindset for a growth mindset.

Wale Akinyemi is the founder of The Street University Email: [email protected]