With so many factors buffeting organisations, boards can expect to take on completely new challenges. 

In the final part of our series, we look at how adopting an agenda for transformation demands a mindset shift, as organisations need to prioritise adaptability and speed, while balancing risks and considering responsibilities and ethics. For most organisations, this will require agility. For others, this will need more drastic action: almost one in seven board executives believe that their organisation will need to completely transform its business model to remain relevant.

This presents the opportunity for general counsel and legal departments to lead by example when it comes to mindset shifts, agile practices, and facilitating a ‘test and team’ culture.

In our research*, we asked board leaders what they thought the most important leadership attributes are for achieving sustainable growth. A growth mindset – the belief that your abilities and successes can improve with continued resilience, effort, and learning – was identified as the most important leadership attribute by board executives.

Growth mindset 1
Creativity 2
 Adaptability / agility 3
Resilience 4
Accountability 5

Improving organisational agility and practising adaptation to change can better prepare a business for unpredictable scenarios. A growth mindset is almost the same thing, but at an individual level. And it’s key to shaking off the paralysis that can arise when businesses are overwhelmed by too much change, or the stagnation that can come from too little. Leaders who can adopt a growth mindset will find it shapes their management style, their decision-making process, and their overall success.

But an uncertain business context can make it difficult to find the positives; our research reveals that 63% of board executives find that the challenging economic outlook is obstructing a growth mindset amongst leaders.

As legal leaders with oversight across the business, general counsel have significant influence in the development of a growth mindset within an organisation. This starts by adopting a growth mindset themselves, modelling this approach for their wider legal team, and operating in a way that encourages a culture of learning whilst supporting experimentation and development across the business.

In practice, this can mean:

  • Supporting continuous learning for themselves and others. The ever-changing regulatory landscape means that continuous learning is second nature to most GCs. Sharing new knowledge – and showing this appetite for development to others – can be embedded in the way that legal and compliance training and feedback is delivered. GCs can also encourage growth mindset principles by engaging with (and contributing to) learning initiatives from across the organisation, including new learning platforms, mentoring schemes, formal training and cross-functional collaboration.
  • Encouraging feedback. Seeing the constructive value in feedback from team members, peers, and stakeholders is key to a growth mindset – but it’s also about providing feedback and coaching to allow others to improve. General counsel’s senior business insight and extensive understanding of compliance, risk, and strategy puts them in a valuable position for teaching and advising colleagues from across the organisation.
  • Embedding growth mindset in policies and procedures. The GC can work with relevant stakeholders to integrate growth mindset principles into the organisation's policies and procedures. For example, performance management systems can be designed to emphasize growth, development, and learning rather than focusing solely on results. General counsel can also advocate for policies that encourage experimentation, innovation, and calculated risk-taking, fostering a culture of growth and learning.
  • Supporting innovation and collaboration. It’s not always recognised, but general counsel plays a critical role in an organisation’s ability to explore new ideas and take calculated risks. By keeping intellectual property policy up to date, collaboration infrastructure agile, and providing legal guidance on protecting (and commercialising) innovation, GCs help their teams navigate new territories, experiment with new concepts, and make informed decisions based on sound legal advice.

General counsel’s role and position in the business makes them natural leaders when it comes to growth mindsets. By creating a culture of development and equipping those around them to embrace challenges and continuously improve, GCs have a wide-reaching influence on getting their organisations ready to innovate, find opportunities amongst change, and stay on the front foot to reach long-term success.

"Successful leaders are those who are people focused. During disruptive times, strong leadership is a critical factor to organisational success. Leaders who can take their team with them when transformation and cultural change is required, are an essential pillar to business longevity. Boards need a clear vision, a strategy and a plan, but they also need the right organisational behaviours and cultures to make the plan a reality.”

John Wood
Managing Partner, TLT

* We conducted opinion research amongst 550 UK board members or equivalent across six sectors, in Spring 2023, under the ethical research guidelines set by both the MRS (Market Research Society) and ESOMAR.

Date published

18 April 2024


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